The Dutch Liberal Party (VVD) and their rivals Labour have tied in national elections according to an exit poll.
The austerity-minded Liberals had been tipped to become the biggest force, but Labour showed a stronger than expected performance.
They are both now projected to end up with 31 seats in the 150-member parliament, making it likely lengthy coalition talks will delay decisions to rein in government spending.
The anti-immigrant Freedom party is in third just ahead of the Christian Democrats, which has led the last four ruling coalitions.
Liberal leader, Mark Rutte, was expected to come out on top as his austerity minded right of centre rhetoric has dominated the campaign.
Concerns over the economy and budget cuts have been the main issues with the Netherlands the first country in the eurozone to vote in a major ballot since the crisis hit the single currency.
The outcome was cause for celebrations at Labour headquarters.
Their leader, Job Cohen, had fared badly in the campaign over his failure to give exact figures for spending cuts; but he could now end up becoming prime minister.
The far right Freedom Party sprung another surprise which could see their leader, Geert Wilders play a decisive role in the new government.
What does seem certain is that the vote will end the eight-year tenure of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose Christian Democrats had ruled with Labour Party until February, when the government collapsed over a disagreement on extending the deployment of Dutch troops