DONALD Trump refused to say whether he would accept the result of the election, maintaining his insistence voting could be rigged.
Hillary Clinton responded in epic style, throwing one of her now signature withering looks at her opponent and calling his answer “horrifying”.
Moderator Chris Wallace pressed Trump on his recent claims that “large-scale voter fraud” is likely to take place in this election, with tricksters stealing the identities of dead people.
“Today I ask you on the stage tonight, sir, do you make the commitment that you will absolutely accept the result of the election?” asked the Fox News anchor.
Trump declined. “I will look at it at the time. I will not do anything now. I will look at it at the time,” he said.
“What I have seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest, and so corrupt ... they’ve poisoned the minds of the voters, but unfortunately for them, I think they’re going to see through it.”
Wallace pressed him further: “But, sir, there is a tradition in this country, the peaceful transition of power, and no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, at the end of the campaign the loser concedes to the winner ... and the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared to commit to that principle?”
Trump then implied that he would only complain if his rival won: “What I am saying is that I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, OK?”
Clinton called that answer “horrifying”, throwing an appalled glance at the flailing Republican nominee.
“Every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him,” she said.
“The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my emails. They concluded there was no case. He said the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus, he lost the Wisconsin primary, he said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering, he claims the court system and the judge were rigged against him.
“There was a time when he didn’t get an Emmy three years in a row, and he said the Emmys were rigged.”
Trump interjected in his usual defiant style: “Should have got it.”
Professor Simon Jackman, chief executive officer of the United Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, called it the shining momement in the debate.
Prof Jackman said Clinton effectively put Trump in a corner and showed what he believed was different to the democratic rights the US stood for.
“It was very purposeful and clearly well rehearsed but she painted a picture of Trump as someone who is dangerous and unfit for office,” he told news.com.au. “She showed what he stands for cuts against the national character.
“It was one of her most effective moments.”
It was typical of Clinton’s no-holds-barred style, which saw the Democratic nominee repeatedly goading her opponent into uncontrolled outbursts.
When explaining that her presidential rival did support the Iraq invasion, contrary to what he said, she added a jibe about the businessman’s background as a television personality.
“Yes, we do need to go after [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi just after we went after Bin Laden while you were doing Celebrity Apprenticeship.”
She drew laughter from the crowd when she quoted her Democratic rival (now supporter) Bernie Sanders calling Trump “the most dangerous person to run for president in the modern history of America.”
And perhaps her best line of the night came at the most important chance for her to get an edge over Trump, when he was confronted over the sexual assault allegations against him.
“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”