Representatives from Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement have agreed to hold formal talks with the government.
No date has been set but the students made it clear the talks would be called off if the remaining demonstrators were cleared from the streets by force.
As the protests entered their second week, crowds began to die down as civil servants returned to work on Monday.
Pro-democracy activists are protesting at China's plans to vet candidates when Hong Kong holds elections in 2017.
They are demanding that the central government in Beijing allow a fully free vote for the territory's leader.
The BBC's John Sudworth in Hong Kong says that although the number of protesters has fallen since the weekend, a hard-core group still remain and had bedded down on the barricades on Monday night.
The first round of preparatory talks with student representatives and some government officials ended on Sunday night, and on Monday it was agreed that both sides would begin a formal dialogue.
The BBC's Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says protesters appear to have decided to beat a strategic, possibly temporary, retreat - partly out of sheer exhaustion.
She says activists have been encouraged by the news of the informal meetings to lay the groundwork for talks on political reform.
The protesters are angry at China's plans to vet candidates when Hong Kong holds elections in 2017.
"People need rest, but they will come out again. It doesn't mean the movement is diminishing. Many people still support it," he said.
The protests have been largely peaceful despite disturbances after tear gas was deployed by police last week
Over the weekend Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung had called on the protesters to end the demonstrations, warning that police had a responsibility to take all actions necessary to resume order.
He said civil servants had to return to work and children needed to go to school.
In the past week parts of central Hong Kong were brought to a complete standstill as huge crowds in the tens of thousands gathered on the streets.
However the numbers of protesters had trickled down to the hundreds on Monday night, with around 500 protesters remaining camped outside in the main protest zone on Harcourt Road according to the South China Morning Post.
Several hundred remain in Mong Kok, north of the harbour, despite earlier calls by organisers for protesters to withdraw from that site, following clashes at the weekend with people opposed to the demonstrations. A smaller number of protesters are still camped out at Causeway Bay.
Police said on Monday that at least 37 people had been arrested so far in Mong Kok. They said five others had been arrested for allegedly hacking government websites.
The mass demonstrations have split opinion in Hong Kong, with many residents frustrated at the disruption caused by the protests.
On Monday the South China Morning Post reported that 59 prominent businessmen signed an open letter on the Occupy protests, saying: "Disrupting the social order of Hong Kong is not helpful to the development and discussion of the political reforms. Nor would it solve any problem."
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