At Ms Le Pen’s election night party, supporters sang the Marseillaise as they awaited the exit poll and then burst into raucous applause as the forecast appeared on a giant TV screen.
There were chants of “Marine, President!” and “We will win!” as she arrived, beaming, onto the stage.
“I will restore French sovereignty in all domains – the ability for the French to decide for themselves, to defend their interests,” she told the tricolore-waving crowd. “I will bring immigration under control and restore security for all.”
Urging “all those who did not vote for Emmanuel Macron” in the first round to back her in the second, she told them: “What is at stake on April 24 is a choice of society, even civilisation” for the “coming 50 years”.
Leftist veteran candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 70, took third place in the exit polls on a stronger-than-expected 20 per cent after a late surge.
Accused of failing to clearly call on his electorate to vote Macron in the 2017 runoff, this time he said: ”We know who we will never vote for… Not a single vote must go to Mrs Le Pen.”
Polls suggest that up to a fifth of Mélenchon voters could opt for the National Rally candidate.
He did not, however, call on supporters to vote Macron, saying it was up to them to make up their minds.
Way back in fourth place on around seven per cent is anti-Islam and anti-immigration candidate Eric Zemmour – who has been unable to convert a stunning start to his campaign to progress in the polls. Analysts say his hardline stance has helped Ms Le Pen soften her image.