Every time he could, Gove attacked the system that Balls had left in place – at one point imploring Labour MPs that, "righteous anger should be directed at the right honourable member for Morley and Outwood, the man who presided over this debacle in the first place." But there was room for a few light-hearted exchanges too. In one, Gove corrected Tristram Hunt on his use of "less" and "fewer," and went on to declare a "coalition for excellence across the dispatch box". Despite the high stakes feel to proceedings, there was a surprisingly relaxed undercurrent.
Of course, this doesn't mean that Gove has defused the issue completely. Ed Balls' determined finger-jabbing and the challenging questions from Tory backbenchers, including Patrick Mercer and David Mowat, are proof enough of that. But the Education Secretary may still sleep a little more peaceably tonight.