Two opinion polls in the space of a few hours today have shown a dramatic change in the fortunes of the main parties and Labour has cut into National's lead.
A New Zealand Morgan poll put National on 40.5 per cent support with Labour climbing to 37.5 per cent, a gap of just three points compared with 11 points a fortnight ago.
And a TV3 poll tonight showed National down four points to 45 per cent while Labour gained three points to 39 per cent, a gap of six points compared with 13 two weeks ago.
The two polls delivered news the Government had been waiting for, and indicated the campaign could have reached a turning point.
National has held a strong lead for most of this year, with Labour trailing by more than 20 points in some polls.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said the latest results showed voters were thinking seriously about whether it was worth risking a National-led government.
"I always believed that when the election arrived the stark choices for voters would become clear," she told reporters.
Miss Clark said voters knew Labour had run a strong economy for most of the past nine years and trusted it to deal with the financial crisis.
That view was supported by the TV3 poll, which asked 1000 voters which party would best handle the economy during a crisis - 42.7 per cent said Labour and 41.2 per cent backed National.
The TV3 poll was taken during the days before and after the Treasury released its latest figures, forecasting a decade of deficits.
At the same time, the international financial crisis was deepening.
National's leader, John Key, said he had expected the polls to move around between now and the election.
Both polls show neither National nor Labour could govern alone, and when the seats are counted up the Maori Party would be likely to hold the balance of power.
TV3's poll showed the Greens gaining 1.5 points to 6.8 per cent support, New Zealand First up 0.4 points to 2.7 per cent, the Maori Party up 0.5 points to 2.5 per cent and ACT dropping 0.4 points to 1.8 per cent.