It took the Coalition five years to find a way to stop Labor crusading on increasing tax revenue, more action on climate change and blocking unpopular spending cuts.
But when Scott Morrison finally did, he landed a knockout blow few saw coming.
The Prime Minister has defied opinion polls, betting markets and experts who thought he could not win.
The Coalition ended election night in a much stronger position than Labor, even if the late counting leads to further upsets and a hung parliament.
Bill Shorten made himself a big target and won acclaim in some quarters for doing so. But the former union boss and his much-vaunted frontbench team made a collective miscalculation of incredible scale.
The parallel with 1993 is inescapable and accurate. Just as the Liberals took a far-reaching platform to the people under John Hewson three decades ago, so Labor took a hugely ambitious agenda to this election.
What gave Labor confidence was its shock result against the Liberals under Malcolm Turnbull three years ago. The result convinced them they could propose difficult tax reforms, such as changes to negative gearing, and still come close to forming government.
MORE ELECTION NEWS:
That experience encouraged them to add to their agenda with policies such as changes to dividend imputation, a proposal that would raise $56 billion over a decade.
One lesson emerges instantly: no opposition will risk its fate in the same way again. The prospect of raising big ideas and ambitious plans is just too dangerous. This formula is dead.
Morrison was sharp and effective in this election campaign by making himself a small target and turning every question into a personal contest against Shorten.
These tactics were treated with suspicion, and even derision, but they worked.
All the burden was on Shorten to explain one of the most expansive policy agendas any leader had taken to an election in decades.
Labor believed it was making headway on this difficult debate. Shorten redoubled his warnings against the dividend imputation rules, calling them a "gift" from taxpayers to people who did not deserve the concessions.
Perhaps Labor might have won the debate on one controversial tax revenue increase such as the negative gearing proposals it took to the 2016 election. But it appears to have suffered from the combined weight of all its plans.
The sharpest attack line of the campaign may well have been the one at the start, when Morrison estimated the total value of the Labor plan to be a $387 billion increase in taxes over a decade.
The tactics deployed in the final stage of this election campaign said everything about the two sides of the contest.
Morrison wanted to turn this campaign into hand-to-hand combat with Shorten. The Liberals had to recover from the damage they did to their own brand during the chaotic leadership spill last August.
Peter Dutton's bid to topple Malcolm Turnbull divided the government's own base and the rise of Morrison was greeted with scepticism.
In this battle of the brands, the Liberals were always on the defensive after their years of division on climate change and their implosion over the leadership.
Labor had the advantage of years of policy work and a rare steadiness in their senior ranks after the internal strife of the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard era.
The solution was to bury the Liberal brand, hide the most contentious ministers and sweep unpopular old attitudes under the carpet. Morrison, the man who took a piece of coal into the Parliament, talked less about coal and more about Snowy 2.0, the hydro project approved by Turnbull.
This confirmed the weakness of the Liberal brand, but was entirely rational in the circumstances.
The biggest campaign among so many Labor and Greens supporters, not to mention activist group GetUp, was to intensify action on climate change. There is no endorsement for this action in this election outcome.
The major players did not predict the failure of this message on climate change. Shorten campaigned strongly on the issue in full confidence he was tapping into a real sentiment in the community. Morrison hammered his warnings about the cost of Labor's policy early in the campaign, but eased off later, turning his attention to the negative gearing plan instead.
Election night was full of irony. Liberals complained three years ago when Turnbull ran a presidential campaign that replaced the party logo with the "Turnbull Coalition Team" and a special gold and blue seal.
The same Liberals had no choice but to embrace the presidential style this time. The difference is that this time it worked.
The government brand became Morrison himself. It is a stunning outcome.
- SMH/The Age