It's been a long time coming, but the soap opera of Tony Abbott's prime ministership reached its final cliffhanger last night with a successful leadership challenge by Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull became Australia's fourth Prime Minister in two years, taking the party leadership by 54 votes to 44, with Julie Bishop staying on as deputy.
Scroll to end: The best Twitter reactions to Abbott's toppling
Seven months have passed since what Abbott called his "near-death experience", when more than one-third of Liberal Party MPs effectively voted for an empty chair over him.
Turnbull declined to challenge then, and so did Bishop, the Foreign Minister.
But yesterday, amid a stream of atrocious opinion polls, and with a crucial byelection looming this weekend, the pair, acting in concert, pounced.
Well-placed sources told Australian media that this time Turnbull had sufficient support among Liberals - "well over 50 per cent" - to oust Abbott. Having quietly bided his time, waiting for the right moment to challenge, Turnbull - who resigned as Communications Minister yesterday - pulled no punches when explaining why he had finally decided to make his move.
Abbott, he said, had "not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs", and if he remained in place, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten would win the next election, due by August next year.
The Government needed "advocacy, not slogans", Turnbull said, adding, scathingly, that "there must be an end to policy on the run and captain's calls".
Bishop visited Abbott before Question Time yesterday to tell him he had lost the party's confidence and urge him to step aside or order a leadership ballot. The Prime Minister, reportedly, reacted defiantly.
Then, following Question Time, Turnbull visited him and delivered the same message.
The move followed renewed leadership rumblings which reached a crescendo in recent days.
Last week, Liberals cringed when a TV microphone picked up Abbott joking with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton about the threat facing low-lying Pacific nations, and when he responded to an interview question about Australia's worsening economic performance by declaring that "the boats have stopped".
In February, it was restive backbenchers who, fed up with Abbott's political judgment and leadership style, tried to trigger a challenge. Although they were unsuccessful, 39 out of 100 Coalition MPs voted in favour of a ballot.
This time it was ministers leading the mutiny - with the last straw a clumsy leak last week, apparently by Abbott's office, of his intention to re-shuffle the Cabinet.
Turnbull, whom Abbott deposed as Liberal leader in 2009, by just one vote, noted yesterday that the Coalition had "lost 30 Newspolls in a row", which clearly indicated that "the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott's leadership".
The Coalition, which marked two years in government last week, has more or less steadily trailed Labor since handing down a deeply unpopular Budget in May last year.
With the next election approaching, government MPs in marginal seats have been feeling increasingly desperate.
And while Abbott and colleagues were lacerating in their criticism of Labor for deposing two elected prime ministers - Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard - Turnbull and his backers must have been calculating that to follow suit would cause less political damage than leaving Abbott in place.
Why Turnbull decided to challenge Abbott
• "The Government isn't providing the economic leadership we need. That's not the fault of individual ministers. Ultimately, the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs."
• "We need a style of leadership that explains challenges facing Australia and the opportunities - a style of leadership that respects people's intelligence, explains complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take and makes a case for it. We need advocacy, not slogans."
• "If Tony Abbott stays, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will become Prime Minister."
• "The Government has lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott's leadership."
• "We have a hugely talented team here in the Parliament. What we have not succeeded in doing is translating those values into the policies and the ideas that will excite the Australian people and encourage them to believe and understand that we have a vision for their future."
• "We need a new style of leadership to deal with fellow members of Parliament and the Australian people. We need to restore traditional cabinet government."
• "We need an open government that recognises there is an enormous sum of wisdom inside and outside Parliament."
• "Few would say the Cabinet Government of Tony Abbott bears any similarity to the style of former Prime Minister John Howard and that's what we need to go back to."
• "The election is 10-11 months away and this needs to be resolved for the nation's sake."