It was going to be a party, or at least that was the plan, and even as we drove towards the thousands of Lula supporters who had taken over a square in downtown Rio de Janeiro, we could hear the cheers and shouting from bars and cafes overflowing with people – and staff struggling to serve food and beer.
Election programmes on televisions beamed the latest results into the street party, every win for their man was greeted with cheers and singing.
But slowly at first, they began to realise that the right-wing vote was holding up better than expected.
The polls suggested President Jair Bolsonaro was more than 14 points off his left-wing rival – that is not how it turned out.
Celebrations here have been put on hold.
The consensus now is that the fight must continue for another round at the end of the month.
We met 25-year-old Thayane Massopust standing outside a cafe, nervously watching the TV screen.
“I think, in my opinion, that if Lula goes to the second round with Bolsonaro, we’re going to win, I’m not afraid of the second round,” she told me.
Another supporter, Bernardo Costa, was a little more concerned though, saying it’s suddenly become that much more unpredictable and Bolsonaro supporters might feel they have momentum because he did better than expected.
“Yesterday we saw Lula winning the first round, and now we are kind of worried about it, that there will be a second round.”
Julia Borges, 23, appeared more sanguine about the result.
“Oh, it’s very disappointing, but I still think we have a chance. It’s always been like this, there’s a history of going to second rounds in these kinds of elections,” she told me.
“I think we don’t need to lose hope yet. The second round, I think it’s going to be positive for Lula, so maybe we just have to wait a little bit more.”
For Lilian Lobato, gathered in the square near a bookstall with her friends, she doesn’t even want to think about another four years of Bolsonaro.
“We need change, 100%, it’s just completely hopeless. I don’t know what we will do if Bolsonaro wins once again, it’s just like the worst scenario…”
President Bolsonaro benefited from the surprisingly weak performances of lesser-known presidential candidates.
He remains very much in the fight. Rio is one of the key centres in this election, and winning here is vital.
It’s a party town for sure, but not as liberal as one might think when you look closely.
More than 30% of Brazilians are evangelists, and most vote for Bolsonaro, meaning he has a built-in constituency, which is a considerable starting point.
He can almost guarantee they’ll turn out again.
“Nowadays, the leftist agenda has pulled in an enormity of values that go against biblical values, against the values of the church,” Pastor Pedro Correa explained to me before the service started at the Baptist Church of Rio de Janeiro.
“Family, gender ideology, abortion, are non-negotiable values for the church. That is why President Bolsonaro has the sympathy of the evangelical people for the absolute values that he defends from the Bible,” he said.
More than 115 million people voted in this first round, and crucially important for both candidates ahead of the second round will be convincing voters who are undecided.
They are the ones who could swing things.
“I don’t like either of them because I don’t like Bolsonaro, because what he represents for the country is very bad, because he’s homophobic, he doesn’t like women and everything,” Roberta Malburg told me while lining up to vote.
“But Lula also was arrested, and I don’t like him as well. So that’s the choice.”
Lula was charged with corruption in 2018, a conviction that was later overturned by the Supreme Court and widely seen as politically motivated.
The two frontrunners will begin the week knowing they will have to campaign hard to get the vote out again at the end of the month.
The divisions in this country have been laid bare again.
And there is nothing to suggest the weeks ahead will be anything but brutal.