Sir Lindsay Hoyle emerged as the frontrunner in the contest to replace John Bercow as Commons Speaker, after the first two rounds of voting.
The Labour politician scooped up 211 votes (37.5%) of the 562 cast by MPs in the first round, opening a clear lead over Conservative Dame Eleanor Laing, who received 113 (20.1%).
He boosted his vote in the second round, securing 244 (42.4%) of the 575 votes cast, with Dame Eleanor in second on 122 (21.2%) and Labour’s Chris Byrant on 120 (20.8%).
They will contest a third ballot, with Labour’s Meg Hillier and Conservative Sir Edward Leigh eliminated in the first round, and Dame Rosie Winterton knocked out in the second round – with her Labour colleague Harriet Harman also withdrawing.
The winner must receive more than 50% of the votes or be the final candidate remaining after the last ballot.
The candidates used their speeches to distance themselves from Mr Bercow, in a bid to stamp their own identity on the key Commons role.
Mr Bercow left the role after a decade, which has been viewed as a time of reform but also controversy.
Dame Rosie opened the contest by insisting she would “not seek the limelight, but build trust”, adding she would not seek to “dominate” proceedings nor “speak for Parliament, but instead allow the chamber’s different voices to be heard”.
The MP, another of Mr Bercow’s deputies, added she would “douse the flames not pour petrol on them” as she made her pitch to be a “unifying” Speaker.
Mr Bryant asked for the “chance to serve” and pledged to “return to the rulebook, stitch it back together”, acting as an “umpire not a player” in the role.
Dame Eleanor pledged to defend MPs, before saying she wants to “end the culture of bullying”.
The Tory MP, who served as a deputy to Mr Bercow, added: “There are times for continuity and there are times for change. This is the time for change. I want to be that change.
“This is the 21st century for goodness sake, we need to escape from the overbearing and hierarchical structures that have made it all too easy for a culture of bullying to take root.”
Ms Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said there is a “good list of MPs to work for and a bad list of MPs to work for”, noting: “Staff know this, we know this, it may be an uncomfortable message, it may not be a vote winner today, but we should not be complacent even if we’re on that good list.”
Sir Lindsay highlighted his experience as a deputy speaker for nine years, and stressed the need to allow backbench MPs to hold those in power to account.
Sir Lindsay also said the Commons is “not a club” where length of service takes priority, adding: “The person who walked through that door yesterday is just as important to their constituents – their voice must be heard as well – and the pecking order ought not to be there, it is about equality.”
Sir Lindsay also vowed to push on with security reforms to keep MPs, their families, staff and the Commons safe.
Ms Harman, a Labour former minister, concluded the speeches by stressing the next Speaker is “really important” as the public’s view of Parliament “is at an all-time low”.
Ms Harman said: “I would reform the Speaker’s powers to make them transparent and accountable to this House, and I would be fearless in standing up for the rights of the House.”
She added: “Six hundred years, only ever one woman.
“There have been 156 men, and this is my question to the House today. Can we show the country we have changed by putting the second woman in that Speaker’s chair?”
Mr Bercow, 56, departed the Speaker’s chair on October 31.
He entered Parliament in 1997 and held several shadow ministerial positions before taking the Speaker’s chair on June 22 2009, promising to serve “no more than nine years in total”.
He abandoned that commitment ahead of the 2017 snap election, but allegations of bullying by former members of his staff, denied by the Speaker, led to fresh calls for him to quit.
In recent months he also came under fire for a series of controversial Brexit rulings in the chamber, which were widely considered to favour Remain supporters.