I guess I should say what I've settled on doing. Having re-written my notes again I'm now using a version of the Exchange Lemma which is very close to that in the Wikipedia article. Previously I'd been following Kaye+Wilson which builds this result up via a couple of lemmas. I think the new version is sufficiently streamlined that I can do it, and then get onto big results, all in a lecture.
The approach which Robin, Andrew et al. suggest (that is, leverage what we already know about matrices) is attractive. But I think it's too late for me this year (and we're re-writing all our syllabi at present, so the course will have to be seriously rethought next year or the one after anyway). I also have a sneaking suspicion that a proof relying upon Gaussian Elimination will fail to convince nearly as many students as the Exchange Lemma version.
Thanks for all the responses: some very useful ideas!