While defeat seemed certain, the hope had been that it would have been small enough for the Prime Minister to survive and head to Brussels to renegotiate.
However, Downing Street has grown worried that the defeat would be too heavy for Mrs May to carry on after. Instead, the vote has been delayed and Mrs May will try and win concessions from the EU first.
She is unlikely to get anything major from Brussels. The key issue, the Irish backstop, is not open for renegotiation. The demands from the Brexiteers for a time limit or a unilateral exit mechanism would render the backstop incapable of performing its intended job and so the EU will not allow it.
Nor is Brussels willing to reopen the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement more generally. It fears demands from member states over issues such as fishing and Gibraltar. So all that will be on offer are small tweaks to the non-binding Political Declaration and perhaps a statement from EU lawyers on the backstop not being permanent.
None of which will be big enough to change the minds of most Brexiteer MPs. They might, however, reduce the size of the rebellion and thus make the two vote strategy viable again.