One veteran observer described the fiery overnight confrontation as the greatest Presidential debate since 1960.
It was certainly aggressive. The two candidates stalked each other like gladiators in the arena. President Obama and Mitt Romney have little respect for each other and it showed in angry and very personal exchanges.
They sparred over domestic issues and the economy. Romney accused the President and his advisers of misleading people over the Benghazi attack that killed the US Ambassador. Obama replied with steely words that were a debate winner.
Certainly instant polls conducted by TV networks gave victory to the President. Obama looked monumentally relieved at the end when he hugged Michelle. Even Republicans concede that the President had woken up after his sleepy performance in Denver.
Last night he looked like a man who wanted a second term. He appeared to have energy and hunger.
But the immediate political question is whether it stops the Mitt Romney poll surge and allows the President to regain his campaign footing. All eyes will be on Ohio and Florida polls over the next 48 hours.
The next and final debate - on foreign policy - is in Florida on Monday night.
All the Democratic Party strategists gathered in the spin room agreed that the race remains very tight. America is a politically divided nation. No debate performance however good will change that simple fact.
But the President achieved two crucial goals. He placed Romney on the defensive and he showed his supporters he still has fight.
Is it enough to save his job? In 20 days we will have the answer.