LATEST POLL RESULTS
So who won?
It is an impossible question to answer, and every French man and woman will make up his own mind.
For my money, Mr Sarkozy clearly had the better of the argument.
He was combative and clear - fiercely fending off attacks by Mr Hollande on his personal integrity or his supposed "partisanship" in favour of the rich.
He made some telling strikes on Mr Hollande's economic programme, as well as on the Socialists' vaunted "normality".
"You speak of being a 'normal' president. But it's not a 'normal' job. De Gaulle, Pompidou, Mitterrand... these were not 'normal' men. Your 'normality' does not match the distinction of the office," he said.
Mr Hollande concentrated his attacks on Mr Sarkozy's record in office, allowing the president to appear more at grips with the challenges of the coming presidency.
And there were times when the Socialist appeared knocked off balance, as if his evidently decent self was not especially enjoying the encounter.
The Socialist did have his moments though, especially in the summing-up when he delivered a stirring peroration about how France would change under his rule.
And his mildness was in sharp contrast to Sarkozy's aggressivity - a difference which in many eyes will not have been to the president's advantaghe
"The choice is clear," he said. "To continue with you [Nicolas Sarkozy] or to change."
No knockout blow
Mr Sarkozy then concluded by directly appealing to voters for the far-right National Front - "unlike you I don't have to put a peg over my nose to talk to them" - as well as for supporters of the centrist Francois Bayrou.
To them, he held out the offer of a constitutional change mandating a balanced budget. That would be in line with the EU's controversial fiscal compact which Mr Hollande wants to renegotiate.
"It is a dangerous world, a difficult world, where decisions have to be taken, a course has to be set, responsibility has to be assumed," Mr Sarkozy said.
Nicolas Sarkozy, I reckon, won on points. But as he himself knows, what he needed was a knockout blow.
And I don't think he got it.