President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney have clashed over both foreign and domestic policy in a feisty live TV presidential debate.
One of the standout moments in the second of three head-to-heads between the candidates came when the pair sparred over last month's attack on a US diplomatic mission in Libya.
The President accused his White House contender of playing politics with national security while Mr Romney hit back by accusing Mr Obama of going on a fundraising tour on the day after the deadly September 11 assault on the Benghazi consulate, and declaring his Middle East policy was "unravelling".
In a television debate that was deemed much more lively and aggressive than the first one, Mr Romney said the President's team either did not know all the details - or did not tell the truth - about the death of four Americans there immediately after the attacks.
Mr Obama admitted for the first time that responsibility for what happened at the consulate in Libya stopped with him and no one else.
But at one point, former Massachusetts governor Mr Romney appeared to get his facts wrong about Mr Obama's handling of the attack and how soon afterwards he described it as an act of terrorism.
In a fierce exchange, Mr Obama called upon transcripts to prove Mr Romney was incorrect and expressed outrage at the Republican's implication that he used the attack to his political advantage.
"The suggestion that anybody on my team, whether it's a secretary of state, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive," Mr Obama said wagging his finger at his opponent across the stage.
With three weeks to go until the US election, Mr Obama fought to reverse a dramatic slide in the polls that has given Mr Romney a lead for the first time in over a year.
They took questions from 80 undecided voters at a town hall-style forum on New York's Long Island.
The tension between the pair was obvious almost from the start when they clashed over domestic oil production.
During a discussion about immigration, Mr Obama and Mr Romney were side-tracked and ended up making digs at each other over their respective financial arrangements.
In another animated moment, Mr Romney was asked by one voter how he differed from fellow Republican George Bush. The White House hopeful responded by saying he took an alternative stance on energy policy, China and deficits.
But the President said his biggest difference was that his Republican rival is more extreme on social issues than Mr Bush, who left office deeply unpopular.
Mr Romney said that he would govern under different conditions that would allow him to make North America energy independent from Arab and Venezuelan oil.
He also claimed he would crack down on China's currency manipulation and cut the deficit by increasing trade.
The President concluded the debate by bringing up Mr Romney's now notorious 47% remark. The Republican had to apologise earlier in the month after he was secretly filmed making disparaging comments about nearly half of Americans who do not pay income taxes.
The debate, watched by millions, was won by Mr Obama, according to an instant CBS poll at the end.
Sky's US political analyst Jon-Christopher Bua said the president looked to have regained some important ground with his performance.
"Mr Obama came out fighting for his job, throwing red meat to his base and may have given the all-important independent voters in those crucial swing states a reason to give him a second term," he said.
The final face-off between the candidates before the November 6 election will be held next Monday in Florida.