Last night's episode of Saturday Night Takeaway marked television history – for the first time in a presenting career spanning three decades, Declan Donnelly hosted without Ant McPartlin.
The huge publicity around – and ensuing curiosity about – Dec's one-man show, plus a rainy Easter evening, conspired to guarantee some impressive ratings figures.
According to TV sources – and confirmed by ITV – the penultimate episode of the series pulled in 8.6 million viewers at its peak, with a 39% audience share!
RATINGS: Dec's own #SaturdayNightTakeaway was seen by 7.70 million viewers last night, making it the most watched episode since the beginning of the series. It peaked at 8.60m (42.9%)
— supertv (@superTV247) 1 April 2018
The show's 7.7 million average was 400,000 viewers up on the previous outing two weekends ago, although there was a 100K shortfall on the series high, when Takeaway celebrated its 100th episode.
This figure will doubtless come as music to the ears of ITV executives, who took the difficult decision, alongside Dec, to proceed with the run without Ant.
Dec's buddy wasn't completely missing from the 90-minute show however – Ant still appeared in the pre-recorded skit Saturday Knight Takeaway.
Viewer reaction to the episode was overwhelmingly positive, with people flooding social media with messages of support for Dec, who initially appeared understandably nervous in the early stages of the broadcast.
Indeed, once he came off air, he admitted to suffering a pretty sleepless night...
Thanks for all your lovely messages tonight, they are VERY much appreciated, I’m glad you enjoyed the show. I didn’t sleep an awful lot last night so I’m off to bed! Night y’all. D x
— antanddec (@antanddec) 31 March 2018
But many agreed he had absolutely smashed the gig alone.
— Ginny Taylor (@ginnytaylor57) 1 April 2018
Bless you Dec. You looked nervous which was to be expected but you did a great job. I was thinking of you all day. I liked that you put Stephen Merchant on your left. Nobody can take Ant’s place. Stay strong ❤
— Mrs Julia Makepeace (@MrsJulia1952) 1 April 2018
Smashed it Dec!! We all could see how nervous you were at the start. Love the fact that u don't shy away and made light of it. The whole of newcastle is behind you mate! Hope ant is back by you side soon #antanddec #declandonelly
— Andrea Dees (@AndreaDees2) 1 April 2018
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