The evening was billed with typically gullet-grabbing urgency as ‘the Battle for America’s Soul’.
But for once, America’s hyperbole-prone television networks had sold themselves way, way short.
For those who stayed up bleary-eyed to catch this most brutal of Presidential contests, this was no mere ‘battle’. It felt more like a long, protracted war.
On a topsy-turvy night which saw Joe Biden (pictured) on course for victory one moment, Donald Trump the next, there was no chance that we were going to get an early victor
And like most wars, it was bitter, bloody and at times felt like there was no end in sight.
On a topsy-turvy night which saw Joe Biden on course for victory one moment, Donald Trump the next, there was no chance that we were going to get an early victor.
So back and forth was the drama, it recalled those bruising Ali/Frazier boxing bouts of old.
And like any classic slugfest, you simply couldn’t take your eyes off the action.
Over in Franklin Square, just a few blocks from the White House, Washingtonians gathered as the polls closed to watch events unfold on a giant television screen.
Cheers went up from the city’s largely anti-Trump population as Biden chalked up early victories in safe states such as Virginia and Vermont.
Before long, America’s electoral map was turning red. Trump (pictured) hung on to Ohio. Texas was also in the bag. By now any chance of a Biden landslide had been snuffed out
Then came the first big blockbuster moment. Trump had won the all-important Florida.
Before long, America’s electoral map was turning red. Trump hung on to Ohio. Texas was also in the bag. By now any chance of a Biden landslide had been snuffed out.
Suddenly, the mood swung in Trump’s favour.
At Harry’s, a pro-Republican bar in the centre of town, Trump supporters erupted into celebrations.
Some swilled jubilantly from pitchers of beer. Others, in their Make America Great Again caps, chanted for ‘Four More Years’.
Outside the Trump International Hotel, I ran into Nigel Farage emerging from the lobby in a plume of cigarette smoke.
‘It’s all going well,’ he grinned. ‘I spoke to the President and he was in tip-top form. The man’s a force of nature.’
Back on Franklin Square, the predictable howls of anguish from the anti-Trump brigade were in full force.
The liberal luvvies on CNN were similarly feverish at the President’s unexpected resurgence. The channel’s anchor, Wolf Blitzer, seemed to have developed a nervous twitch.
‘Remember, it’s early days yet,’ he kept insisting. ‘Very early days.’
But with many key swing states allowing postal votes to be admitted despite being received after election night, the contest remained far from over.
Shortly after 2am, Trump addressed the nation (pictured: Ivanka Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lara Trump, Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump and Michael Boulos appear in the East Room of the White House in the early hours of the morning)
Biden took to the airwaves shortly after midnight to urge his supporters to keep heart. ‘It ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted,’ he drawled.
He may as well have prodded the notoriously combustible President with a cattle prod.
After Biden spoke, the President took to Twitter – where else? – to accuse the Democrats of trying to rig the election.
In a typically bombastic tweet, Trump boomed: ‘We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed.’
So absurd were his comments, Twitter’s regulators took the extraordinary step of slapping a warning on his pronouncement’s validity.
But the President was about to drop an even more reckless bombshell.
Shortly after 2am, Trump addressed the nation. In front of a partisan crowd of supporters gathered in the White House East Wing, he took the unprecedented step of declaring victory.
‘This is an embarrassment to our country,’ he announced.
At Harry’s, a pro-Republican bar in the centre of town, Trump supporters erupted into celebrations (Trump supporters at Harry’s, pictured)
‘We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly we did win this election.’
It was a truly eye-popping moment. Never before had a President declared victory when the result remained so unclear.
With the country already wound like a coiled spring, many might have expected the President to urge Americans to show patience. But The Donald simply doesn’t do responsible.
Network anchors sat open-mouthed. Even the Fox news presenters, whose devotion to Trump borders on cult-like, were taken aback.
Indeed, as Democrat supporters sloped off to bed, it was beginning to look like another dark night of the soul.
Yet they awoke yesterday morning to discover that there’d been another dramatic ground shift.
Suddenly, Mr Biden was now back in the hunt.
By late last night, his campaign team were confident he was on course for victory.