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Summary

  1. France's two presidential candidates go on the offensive in crucial debate
  2. The far right's Marine Le Pen brands her opponent a "candidate of the elite"
  3. Centrist Emmanuel Macron strikes back, accusing her of lying
  4. The two argue over terrorism, the French economy and Europe
  5. Four days from the poll, the debate is seen as the last real chance for Le Pen to close the gap on Macron in the polls
  6. The last time the far right came this close to power was in 2002 under Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen
  7. Some 20 million French viewers are expected to tune in for the debate, due to last 2 hours and 20 minutes

Live Reporting

By Vicky Baker, Tom Spender, Patrick Jackson and Jasmine Taylor-Coleman

All times stated are UK

  1. That's it for now

    And that concludes our live coverage of one of the most memorable presidential debates in French history, astonishing in its passion, if not downright viciousness.

    Join us again on Sunday, election day itself, to see what verdict France passes on Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen. 

    Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron before their debate, 3 May
  2. Watch the debate back

    If you've been following our text updates, here is a video round-up of some of moments of the debate - with the candidates setting out their positions on the fight against terrorism and their visions for France.

    Video content

    Video caption: French debate: Macron and Le Pen set out their stance
  3. The race is not run just yet

    There's still more campaigning to be done, the BBC's Gavin Lee tweets.

  4. So who won?

    France 2 TV's Guillaume Daret asked people to make their judgement on Twitter.

    It's not an official poll, but of 676 votes cast at the time of writing, 60% give it to Macron, 24% say Le Pen and 16% say neither.

    View more on twitter
  5. The best or the worst?

    "We may have just watched the worst debate in the history of the 5th Republic," says French journalist Bruno Jeudy on BFMTV.

  6. 'Calm down' - 'No you calm down'

    A cartoonist sums the debate up as both candidates each attempting to demonstrate their Gallic sang-froid by telling the other to calm down...

    View more on twitter
  7. 'You stay on TV - I want to lead the country'

    The two candidates traded barbs right up until the end of the debate. Macron accused Le Pen of telling lies about his project without ever saying what she herself proposes.

    "I refuse the spirit of defeat and hatred proposed by the National Front," he says. "We've always been a generous and open country."

    As the debate closed, Le Pen joked: "Ha - like Francois Hollande."

    Macron hit back.

    "You stay on TV," he said. "I want to lead the country."

  8. Two and a half hours of heat

    And it's over! The actual vote will be on Sunday.

  9. Le Pen: I like France as it is

    "People will say I am old-fashioned, but I like France as it is, with its culture, its language, its borders."

    She says Macron wants to shut down hospitals and factories.

    "The only thing you don’t want to close is the borders."

  10. Macron: You don't care about France

    In a soft voice, Macron brutally lays into Le Pen.

    "The country is not important to you, you don't have a project.

    "Your campaign of lies and falsification feeds off fear. It is fear that nourishes you.

    "I don't want this for France - it is worth more than that.

    "I understand the anger of our fellow citizens. I want to bring a deep response.

    "I want a France that is reconciled with itself and one that is truly transformed."

  11. Final words?

    The debate is running 10 minutes late already.The candidates are now summing up what they stand for. 

  12. Macron: Focus on overseas and disadvantaged

    In his two minutes of allotted time, Macron says he wants to pay more attention to France's overseas territories.

    He also wants to improve opportunities for disadvantaged people, particularly the young.

    "I want pragmatic solutions," he says.

  13. Le Pen: Your France is a trading room

    "The France that you defend isn't France, it's a trading room," she tells Macron, hinting at his past as an investment banker and economy minister.

    She says her vision of France is about solidarity, culture and hope. 

    "France was thrown into chaos by your [political] friends," she says. 

  14. Macron: You spread hatred

    "You are the far right. You spread lies on social media. You spread hatred. You molest journalists," he says.

    "This is not what our France looks like."

  15. In two minutes

    The two candidates have each been given two minutes to talk about any issue they like as the debate draws to a close. 

  16. Macron: You're not worthy

    The candidates trade vicious barbs over probity.

    Does Macron have an offshore bank account? Who knows, wonders Le Pen. Macron accuses her of defamation.

    As well as raising the subject of fraud allegations against her, he accuses her of threatening civil servants and badmouthing judges when they say things she doesn't like.

    "You are not worthy of running these institutions because you threaten them," he says.