In 2010, the consensus was that Rudd scored a comfortable win by giving a smooth, persuasive and prime ministerial performance. In contrast, Abbott was seen as overly aggressive and under-gunned on policy detail. This time the dynamics were very different.
The pressure was on Rudd to score an emphatic win to energise his campaign after an unremarkable first week. Behind in the polls and keen for a debate a week, he needed to clearly outperform his opponent.
He didn't. A contest that was light on new ideas and real answers ended in either a draw or a narrow win to Abbott, not least because Rudd appeared to be referring to notes on more than two occasions.
The Prime Minister articulated his case for a ''new way'' to match new challenges well enough, but invited the Abbott rejoinder: that the only way to get a new way is to elect a new government.
For the most part, Abbott kept his aggression in check, though he is unlikely to have impressed undecided voters by mocking his opponent with unrestrained laughter while Rudd was speaking.
Both leaders appeared under-prepared for questions of detail on issues outside those that have dominated political debate for the past three years - climate change, the boats and the economy.
Rudd seemed oblivious to the state of play on the case for a second international airport in Sydney, while Abbott's only idea for addressing the growing challenges in aged care was about reducing red tape.
Abbott remains vulnerable on the question of where the money will come from to pay for his promises, while getting rid of a swag of taxes and bringing the budget back into surplus. All will be revealed in due course is the stock answer.
His counter-attack on Rudd's scare campaign on the prospect of the GST being broadened and increased was undermined because he didn't answer Rudd's repeated question - why is the GST being included in the Coalition's proposed tax review.
On climate change and boats, there was little new and little to separate the protagonists. Rudd was more forceful on the impact of climate change and alluded artfully to the scepticism on the part of some on the other side. But there was no knockout blow.
Rudd's one new commitment - and the only one of the debate from either leader - was to bring forward legislation on same-sex marriage in the first 100 days if re-elected.