Prime Minister David Cameron won the first TV encounter of a close national election in Britain, an opinion poll showed, but opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband leveraged a rare opportunity to promote himself on a national stage.
With Cameron's Conservatives neck-and-neck in the opinion polls with Labour, both are trying to grab an elusive lead over the other before the May 7 ballot to avoid another possible coalition or even a minority government.
Britain's future in the European Union and its territorial integrity could ride on the outcome as Cameron is pledging an EU membership referendum and Miliband may need to do a deal with Scottish nationalists intent on breaking up the United Kingdom.
Cameron and Miliband were interviewed separately but back-to-back in their toughest cross-examinations in years, and subjected to question and answer sessions from a studio audience on Sky News and Channel 4.
A snap Guardian/ICM poll afterwards showed 54 percent of those asked thought Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, had won, compared to 46 percent who judged Miliband had triumphed.