Centrist Emmanuel Macron has gone through to the second round of the French election, where he will face far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Mr Macron, a former banker, is seen as a political outsider, having never run an election campaign before.
After topping Sunday’s vote, he is now favourite to win the run-off on 7 May.
It is the first time in six decades that neither of France’s main left-wing or right-wing parties has had a candidate in the second round.
With 97% of votes counted, Mr Macron stands on 23.9% with Ms Le Pen on 21.4%.
Their nearest challengers, centre-right François Fillon and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, fell behind, with just over 19% each.
In a victory speech to supporters, Mr Macron borrowed language favoured by his rival to describe himself as the patriotic choice for France.
“I hope that in a fortnight I will become your president. I want to become the president of all the people of France – the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists,” he said.
Ms Le Pen also made an “appeal to all patriots”, saying a vote for her was the key to the “survival of France”.
“Wherever they come from, whatever their origin, whatever they voted for in the first round, I invite them all to join us and to abandon ancient quarrels and to concentrate on what is essential for our country,” she said.
Ms Le Pen’s campaign for the Front National party centres on wanting to slash immigration, clamp down on free-trade, and overturn France’s relationship with Europe.
Mr Macron was current President Francois Hollande’s economy minister but quit to create his own party, En Marche, which pushes a liberal, pro-EU agenda.
At 39, he could now become the youngest president France has ever had.
Various political rivals are now expected to unite in a bid to keep the Front National from power.
Benoit Hamon, the candidate of President Hollande’s Socialist Party who failed to make an impact in the first round, urged those who voted for him to support Mr Macron in the next stage.
Mr Fillon has done the same.
As the results came in, Mr Macron addressed the nation in front of an EU flag, giving hope to European leaders who are keen to strengthen the union after Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffan Seibert, tweeted: “It’s good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU and social market economy. All the best for the next two weeks.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also congratulated him, as did EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“The result is the hope and future of our generation,” she tweeted.
What are Macron’s policies? By the BBC’s Thomas Fessy in Paris
Emmanuel Macron is pragmatic – he says he wants to create a new kind of politics, breaking down the divisions between the traditional left and right. His manifesto blends liberal economic reforms with left-leaning policies on social issues.
He wants to make it easier for companies to hire and fire staff; to lower taxes on businesses and extend the 35-hour week.
Mr Macron also wants to extend unemployment benefits to more people, including the self-employed, to make education a top priority and to encourage a shift to renewable energy.
Whether he could then secure a majority in parliament remains unclear. He has promised to select candidates from outside the political system – half of them women – for parliamentary elections in June.