A victorious Premier Daniel Andrews has told supporters "hope always defeats hate" and the Victorian election was a resounding vote for a strong, stable majority Labor government.
"Reforming giant and Labor icon Paul Keating once said to me, 'son, leadership is not about doing what is popular, leadership is about doing what is right,'" he said at a party in his Melbourne electorate of Mulgrave.
"Essentially, he was telling me that leadership is about doing what matters and that's exactly what the people of this great state have endorsed today."
Much of the election was fought as a referendum on Mr Andrews, who became a divisive figure during the COVID-19 pandemic over his handling of six lockdowns, hotel quarantine failures and vaccine mandates.
Mr Andrews referenced the one-in-100-year event in his speech, noting Victorians' kindness, compassion, connection and readiness to get vaccinated "because vaccines work".
"Because, as a community we were not, as some would say, divided, we were instead united in our faith in science and in our faith and care for and in each other," he said.
During the campaign, Labor promised to bring back a renewables-only State Electricity Commission, build new hospitals, improve women's health and to expand TAFE.
"We will deliver each and every element of our positive plan to benefit each and every Victorian. No matter how you voted," Mr Andrews said.
At about 10.50pm on Saturday, Matthew Guy conceded defeat at the Doncaster Bowls Club where Liberals supporters had grown increasingly deflated as the night wore on.
It was the second time in four years he had to phone his political foe to admit defeat but he did not let on as to whether he would stay on as leader.
"It is important that post this election that we come together as Victorians know that the best of our state should be ahead of us, not behind us," Mr Guy said.
"There have been some truly tremendous swings to our side of politics in Melbourne's north and west, swings above 15 per cent approaching 20 per cent in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs."
As of midnight, Labor was forecast by the Victorian Electoral Commission to hold 48 seats in the lower house, with the Liberals on course for 13.
"Congratulations @DanielAndrewsMP, what a great win," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted soon after the result became clear.
While Labor retained government, the night saw multiple seats change hands.
Former Strictly Ballroom star Paul Mercurio clinched the seat of Hastings southeast of Melbourne for Labor from the Liberals.
But former professional tennis player Sam Groth declared victory in the seat of Nepean on the Mornington Peninsula, prying it from Labor early in the count.
The Nationals looked set to reclaim the regional seats of Mildura and Shepparton from independents.
So-called teal independents were in the box seat to take over Hawthorn and Mornington.
The Greens retained its three seats in Melbourne, Brunswick and Prahran, as well as the inner-city electorates of Richmond and Northcote.
The minor party had also put up strong challenges in the Labor-held seats of Preston, Footscray, Pascoe Vale and Albert Park.
Earlier on Saturday, some Victorians had to hand-write votes on blank ballot papers as a number of centres ran out on election day.
The Victorian Electoral Commission tweeted the blank ballots were an "acceptable approach" given the situation.
Polls closed at 6pm on Saturday, after weeks of early voting in which nearly two million Victorians pre-polled.
Almost half of the 4.4 million enrolled Victorians had already cast their ballots at early voting centres or by post, leading to a warning from the electoral commission it could delay results on election night.
As of midnight, the commission had counted 62 per cent of ballots.