Fighting for survival, Republican nominee Donald Trump has stanched the bleeding by hitting back hard at Democrat Hillary Clinton in round two of the presidential debate, with signs pointing to a no-holds-barred slugfest in the weeks before the Nov 8 election.
Mr Trump faced tough questions about his lewd comments about women - which emerged in a tape last Friday - but directed his attack at former president Bill Clinton's past infidelities and Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server.
Pundits felt Mr Trump did better than expected, while his rival was low-key, playing it safe throughout the 90-minute debate held at Washington University (WU) in St Louis, Missouri, on Sunday night.
Still, most polls showed that Mrs Cinton won the debate, though less decisively than in the first round. It was 57 per cent in her favour compared with 34 per cent for Mr Trump, according to a CNN/ORC poll. A YouGov poll gave her 47 per cent against 42 per cent for him. But some unscientific online polls handed Mr Trump the win.
Sunday night's viewership is expected to surpass the first round's record-setting 84 million.
Given the honour of making the opening remarks ahead of the debate was Singaporean Kenneth Sng, 24, president of the WU students' union, who welcomed the audience on behalf of the student body.
Political science associate professor Melissa Miller of Bowling Green State University said Mr Trump's performance "probably stanched the bleeding" but the "overall contours of the race are probably unchanged and they favour Clinton".