At times Whitman has looked robotic in her message control, but at the debate she was counter-punching better than in previous debates.
The heat in this debate turned up 15 minutes in when Brown turned to Whitman and challenged her proposal to eliminate the state's capital gains tax on investments. Whitman fired back.
"Ms. Whitman I'd like to ask you, how much money will you save if this tax break were in effect this year or last year?" said Brown.
"So, you know what? I'm an investor and investors will benefit from this, but so will job creators and I was a job creator. And you know what? We've got to get someone in office who knows what the conditions are for small businesses to grow and thrive. My track record is creating jobs, my business is creating jobs, your business is politics, you've been doing this for 40 years," said Whitman.
When moderator Tom Brokaw asked Brown about one of his staffers calling Whitman a "whore," Whitman mugged while Brown explained why the staffer hasn't been identified.
"This is a 5-week-old private conversation picked up on a cell phone with a garbled transmission, very hard to detect who it is, this is... well, I don't want to get into the term and how it's used, but I will say the campaign apologized promptly and I affirm that apology tonight," said Brown.
Whitman wasn't having any of it. On the budget, Brown said he would lead by example by cutting the governor's office.
"I want to see something entirely different and I also want to start at the top. I want to see the governor cut 10 to 15 percent out of his budget and then the Legislature, and I have a number of other cuts that if we have the time I'll outline them," said Brown.
Whitman pounced again, asking Brown, "Do you know how much the governor's budget is?" He replied, : "Yeah, it's a lot bigger than when I was there, but if you start..." To which Whitman interjected, "No, the governor's budget, the governor's office budget is $18 million. If he cuts 15 percent out of the budget, he's going to save $2.7 million which is less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the $20 billion budget deficit that we face. If that is your plan for fixing the budget, we have really big problems ahead of us."
Brown did score on immigration, first by bringing up the way Whitman treated her housekeeper after she found out the woman was in the country illegally.
"I think it's kind of a sorry tale there, after working for nine years, she didn't even get her a lawyer. At least I could tell you that could be done," said Brown.
He went on to chastise Whitman for advocating a temporary workers program with no path towards citizenship.
"And that's basically treating people from Mexico as semi-serfs, just bring them in, work them, and send them back. I don't think that's human. I don't think that's right," said Brown.
That line from Brown brought him the biggest applause in support of him for the night.
Scoring the debates, I would say the first one in Davis was a draw, Brown was the winner of the Fresno debate, and Whitman counter-punched better than Brown in this last debate.
The other big development in the race is that Whitman gave her campaign another $20 million on Tuesday.