A 2-year randomized, controlled prospective study evaluated the clinical effectiveness of a one-step self-etch adhesive and a "gold-standard" three-step etch-and-rinse adhesive in non-carious Class-V lesions. The null hypothesis tested was that the one-step self-etch adhesive does perform clinically equally well as the three-step etch-and-rinse adhesive. A total of 161 lesions in 26 patients were restored with Clearfil AP-X (Kuraray). The restorations were bonded either with the "all-in-one" adhesive Clearfil S3 Bond (Kuraray) or with the three-step etch-and-rinse adhesive Optibond FL (Kerr). The restorations were evaluated at baseline and after 6 months, 1 and 2 years, regarding their retention, marginal adapation, marginal discoloration, caries occurrence, preservation of tooth vitality and post-operative sensivity. Retention loss, severe marginal defects and/or discoloration that needed intervention (repair or replacement) and the occurrence of caries were considered as clinical failures. The recall rate at 2 years was 93.8%. Only one Clearfil S3 Bond restoration was lost at the 2-year recall. All other restorations were clinically acceptable. The number of restorations with defect-free margins decreased severely during the 2-year study period (to 6.7% and 25.3% for Clearfil S3 Bond and Optibond FL, respectively). The Clearfil S3 Bond restorations presented significantly more small marginal defects at the enamel side than the Optibond FL restorations (Clearfil S3 Bond: 93.3%; Optibond FL: 73.3%; p = 0.000). Superficial marginal discoloration increased in both groups (to 53.3% and 36% for Clearfil S3 Bond and Optibond FL, respectively) and was also more pronounced in the Clearfil S3 Bond group (p = 0.007). After 2 years, the simplified one-step self-etch adhesive Clearfil S3 Bond and the three-step etch-and-rinse adhesive Optibond FL were clinically equally successful, even though both adhesives were characterized by progressive degradation in marginal integrity. Clearfil S3 Bond exhibited more small enamel marginal defects and superficial marginal discolorations.