The French presidential campaign verged on farce when the two remaining candidates battled it out in a Whirlpool factory, with the far-Right's Marine Le Pen posing for selfies and chatting with workers but the centrist Emmanuel Macron drawing a volley of boos.
Ms Le Pen upstaged Mr Macron in his hometown of Amiens by making a surprise visit to the factory, which is due to close and move to Poland with the loss of 290 jobs, just as he was meeting with its union representatives in the town centre.
The far-Right leader, who polls say will be trounced in the second and final round of the election on May 7, chatted with workers at the gates of the factory which has become the latest hot-button symbol of the loss of French jobs to plants overseas.
The 48-year-old told reporters that her rival 's decision to meet union officials in town - rather than come to the factory gates - was a sign of someone who was out of touch with the workers.
“Everyone knows what side Emmanuel Macron is on — he is on the side of the corporations,” Ms Le Pen said. “I am on the workers' side, here in the car park, not in restaurants in Amiens.”
“I am the candidate of workers, the candidate of the French who don't want their jobs taken away,” she said.
The factory in Amiens, where the production of dryers is due to stop this year and shift to Poland, has been seized upon by Ms Le Pen as proof that globalisation is out of control and that “economic patriotism” and the return of borders is the answer.
Mr Macron, who has been accused since the first-round result on Sunday of complacently resting on his laurels while his rival immediately got back on the campaign trail, hastily arranged a face-saving visit to the Whirlpool plant which lies in the northern rust belt that is Ms Le Pen's political stronghold.
But when the 39-year-old former banker got there it looked like he had fallen into a well-planned trap laid by his wily and far more politically experienced adversary.
Some in the crowd shouted “President Marine!” and booed as he arrived outside the factory, just hours before he was due to travel to nearby Arras to address the first rally of the campaign to be held since the first round of voting last weekend.
“It's important not to feed anger but to be up to meeting expectations,” he told the often hostile crowd. “Of course there's anger in the country, there's anguish, there's a responsibility to take, that's why I'm here.”
He told the workers the only reason the anti-immigrant and anti-EU Ms Le Pen had come to Amiens was “because I'm here”.
He also retorted on Twitter that she had spent “ten minutes with her supporters in a car park in front of the cameras” whereas he had spent “an hour and a half with union representatives and no media.”
Ms Le Pen, whose new campaign slogan is “Choose France”, meanwhile tweeted photos of her meeting the workers and said: “With me, their factory won't close!”
Mr Macron's visit came as a Harris Interactive poll showed 52 percent of the French believe he botched the start of campaigning for the run-off.
After winning Sunday's contest with 24.1 percent to his rival's 21.3 percent, he gave an exuberant victory speech followed by a high-profile party at La Rotonde bistro in Paris, drawing criticism from many, including from Socialist President François Hollande, for whom he worked as economy minister until 2016 when he resigned to form his own political movement.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy meanwhile joined a growing number of conservative and centrist leaders and came out in favour of Mr Macron, saying on Facebook that a Le Pen win would have “very serious consequences for our country and for the French.”
Mr Sarkozy’s centre-right Les Républicians party, seeking to rebound after the defeat of its scandal-tainted presidential candidate, François Fillon, has said it could share power with Mr Macron if he is elected.
François Baroin, who served as a finance minister under Sarkozy, said on Wednesday he was ready to work as prime minister in "cohabitation" with Mr Macron.
Mr Macron’s "En Marche!" movement risks being in a minority in parliament after legislative elections are held in June and may need to rely on allies to rule effectively.