The Nationalist charge into the small hours may have been spearheaded by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, but the party enjoyed significant successes elsewhere.

While the SNP was not spared several sore defeats in seats it had identified as key, there appeared to be enough gains to rally optimism.

Emblematic to their positive results in the early hours was the significant increase in majority enjoyed by Shona Robison in Dundee East.

She had won the seat four years ago by fewer than 100 votes, but with 13,314 votes this time around, she won a majority of more than 4500 over Labour's Iain Luke.

Local councillor Joe Fitzpatrick helped the Nationalists seize neighbouring Dundee West, from Labour, with a swing of more than 6% The SNP polled 10,955 votes to Labour's 9009.

"We've got a historic moment tonight, because Dundee is the first city to become an SNP city, and we should be truly proud of that," Ms Robison said. Mr Fitzpatrick proclaimed his victory as one of "hope over fear".

Elsewhere, the loss of Central Fife - in Chancellor Gordon Brown's back yard - was particularly galling for Labour.

Christine May's majority of 2762 from 2003 was overturned by SNP's Tricia Marwick. Ms Marwick polled 11,920, giving her a majority of 1166 over Labour.

Soon afterwards, the news came that the SNP had won Stirling from Labour, in one of the night's other big shocks, as well as news that it had held Ochil under Keith Brown.

Bruce Crawford snatched Stirling from Labour's Sylvia Jackson, with a majority of 620.

In Ayrshire, SNP's Willie Coffey deposed Labour's Margaret Jamieson.

Speaking about the gains, SNP's campaign manager Angus Robertson said: "These are sensational results."