The 10th Democratic debate, in Charleston, South Carolina, failed to repeat the drama of last week's confrontation in Las Vegas, with the seven rival candidates often shouting over each other, but gave voters another chance to run the rule over the candidates before what looks like a crucial vote on Saturday.
It is also the last debate ahead of Super Tuesday next week, when 14 states decide who they want to take on Donald Trump in November: California, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, as well as Democrats Abroad.
Here's how the seven hopefuls fared.
As the man who looks like he might run away with the nomination following three out of three triumphs, the Vermont senator was always going to be the main target. And sure enough, his rivals took turns to lay into him.
Sanders was taken to task over gun control, the cost of his healthcare plans and accusations that he was being unwittingly helped by Russia so that Moscow could ensure another four years of Donald Trump in power.
An enduring theme played into the dilemma facing Democratic voters: is the lifelong democratic socialist electable? Pete Buttigieg in particular – so far his main challenger – pushed the idea that Sanders would be unable to attract moderates and would not only let Trump back in for a second term but could affect the chances of congressional candidates further down the ticket.
None of it put the veteran senator off his stride and he finished with an appeal to the young, who have bolstered his success so far. If he can make a good showing in South Carolina on Saturday – and particularly on Super Tuesday a week from now – then he will probably feel untouchable.
According to analysis by CNN, he had the most speaking time, with 15 minutes and 43 seconds.
Under pressure after disappointing results – despite having long been the frontrunner in national polls – the former vice-president was in feisty mood.
Biden relied hard on his experience, in increasing funding for the Center for Disease Control when asked about coronavirus, and playing on his foreign policy record.
He hit Sanders on gun control and over reports that he wanted to challenge Barack Obama in 2012.
In a comparatively chaotic debate, Biden got a roar of applause from the audience when he insisted he would keep speaking.
In front of a sympathetic crowd, Biden gave the performance he needed to ahead of a vote which is meant to revive his fading fortunes – but whether it's too late to make much of a difference remains to be seen.
The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had a clear strategy – attack Bernie Sanders.
The two have emerged as the frontrunners so far and Buttigieg will be keen to consolidate his place as the lead moderate at the expense of Biden, Bloomberg and Klobuchar.
Addressing the democratic socialist Sanders, the 38-year-old said vulnerable Democrats were "running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can".
Under fire from Sanders for accepting contributions from billionaires, Buttigieg cheekily used his answer as a call for donations from everyone else and warned billionaires that he would tax them more.
An upbeat and confident performance, although his lack of popularity with African-American voters may result in a dent in his prospects come Saturday night – and even more so on Super Tuesday when more significant black electorates come into play.
She was the undisputed star of last week's Las Vegas debate – but it didn't appear to do her much good in the Nevada caucuses, where she finished fourth with less than 10 per cent and no delegates.
The Massachusetts senator picked up where she left off, tearing into Mike Bloomberg for his treatment of women in the workplace, his historic support for Republicans (including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham) and his failure so far to release his tax returns (he has said he will after Super Tuesday). She also accused him of being the "riskiest" choice available.
Warren also laid into Sanders, her rival on the left of the party. "Bernie and I both want to see universal health care, but Bernie's plan doesn't explain how to get there. Doesn't show how we're going to get enough allies into it and doesn't show enough about how we're gonna pay for it."
She said bluntly that she felt she would make a better president.
After his mauling in his debate debut in Las Vegas last week at the hands of Elizabeth Warren, the former New York mayor came out fighting.
Referring to reports that intelligence officials have told Bernie Sanders that Russia is trying to interfere in his campaign, Bloomberg told him: "Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that's why Russia is helping you get elected so you lose to him."
As soon as she got the chance, however, Warren was back to putting Bloomberg on the back foot again, this time with a claim dating from 1995 that he had once told a pregnant employee to "kill it".
The Minnesota senator also targeted Bernie Sanders, saying: "I like Bernie. We came in together to the Senate. But I do not think that this is the best person to lead the ticket."
Stressing her moderate credentials she warned her rivals: "If we spend the next four months tearing our party apart, we're going to watch Donald Trump spend the next four years tearing our country apart."
The billionaire has been trying to foster African-American support in North Carolina -- the first state in the primary process where a majority of Democratic voters are black.
He stressed his work providing banking facilities to minorities -- and to women -- and spoke in favour of providing reparations for slavery.
Steyer was forced to defend his previous business interest in private prisons under attack from Joe Biden, who is relying on a strong African-American showing in Saturday's primary.
Not a great night for those asking the questions and trying to keep things under control. CBS journalists Norah O'Donnell, Gayle King, Margaret Brennan, Major Garrett and Bill Whitaker struggled to maintain discipline and, at one point, seemed not to know whether the debate was over or not.