Preference flows have Palmer in front by a fingernail

Just three votes separate Clive Palmer from his Liberal National Party opponent as election counting in the Queensland seat of Fairfax comes down to the wire.

On Wednesday Mr Palmer lost the lead to LNP candidate Ted O'Brien for the first time in a week and a half, with about 100 votes separating the pair following the distribution of preferences. But the final update for the day showed Mr Palmer ahead by three votes.

The remarkably close tally has Mr Palmer sitting on 41,972 votes and Mr O'Brien just behind on 41,969 votes.

Although Mr Palmer has attracted just 26.46 per cent of the primary vote in the Sunshine Coast seat - well behind Mr O'Brien's 41.41 per cent - preference flows from supporters of Labor and the Greens helped put the Palmer United Party founder in contention.

The result is too close to call but Mr Palmer has already cried foul over the Australian Electoral Commission's handling of the count.

It is understood about 1000 votes remain to be counted in Fairfax. The AEC said a final count would occur on Friday night, the deadline for the arrival of postal votes.

While absentee votes have favoured Mr Palmer, pre-poll and postal votes have heavily favoured Mr O'Brien, who has clawed back Mr Palmer's lead since the September 7 federal election.

Mr O'Brien has attracted 61 per cent of postal votes, many of which would have been submitted before Mr Palmer's multimillion-dollar advertising blitz dominated the final weeks of the campaign.

Mr Palmer has complained about ''irregularities'' and threatened to use his Queensland senator-elect, Glenn Lazarus, to block Tony Abbott's bills in the upper house unless electoral reforms were offered.

❏On Wednesday Labor MP Rob Mitchell enjoyed a 312-vote lead over Liberal challenger Donna Petrovich in the Victorian seat of McEwen. Absentee and pre-poll votes have favoured Mr Mitchell but postal votes have narrowly gone Ms Petrovich's way.

This story Preference flows have Palmer in front by a fingernail first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.