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win on points

Succeed but barely, especially by a technicality. For example, Both sides were forceful in that argument about the embargo, but I think the senator won on points. This term comes from boxing, where in the absence of a knockout the winner is decided on the basis of points awarded for each round. Its figurative use dates from the mid-1900s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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