Emmerdale live episode draws 9.2 million viewers
An average of 9.2 million viewers watched Emmerdale's live episode, with one critic describing it as "flawless".
Viewers were promised two births, two weddings and a death in the special hour-long ITV show, to mark the soap's 40th birthday.
Viewing figures peaked at 9.7m in the final five minutes, at 19:55 BST.
"An impressive acting showcase which wouldn't look out of place on the big screen or the serious stage," wrote The Mirror's Mark Jefferies
"Yes, it was over-the-top, but Emmerdale Live gripped me from start to finish," he added.
Spoiler alert: Plot details revealed below
The soap, first broadcast in October 1972, took the lion's share of the audience on Wednesday between 19:00 and 20:00, with an average 41.7% of the available audience tuning in to the live episode.
BBC One's The One Show was its closest rival, with an audience share of 18.1% and an average of 4 million viewers.
However, audience figures for Emmerdale fell short of previous live episodes of both Coronation Street and EastEnders, which averaged 14 million and 15.6 million respectively in 2010.
Directed by Tony Prescott, who oversaw the 50th birthday live edition of Coronation Street, much of the show was shot outdoors in the purpose-built village in Yorkshire - at the mercy of the elements - with cast and crew dashing between locations as the action evolved.
Behind the scenes footage was screened simultaneously on ITV.com.
"I was waiting anxiously for the first sign of disaster. But there was nothing," wrote the Telegraph's Rachel Ward.
"Luckily for Prescott, the 70-strong crew and the 61 cast members, it was flawless."
Typically, indoor scenes are shot at the ITV studios in Leeds, but the logistics of the live episode demanded that the entire show was shot on site, using interiors constructed especially for the anniversary edition.
"It was all very over-the-top with some of the minor characters giving stagey performances, but Tom Lister [Carl King] and Lucy Pargeter [Chas Dingle] impressed, helping to slowly build up the tension to the death scene," added Ward.
"Fireworks provided a fitting conclusion to the evening's events on-screen and off."
The live episode involved 27 cameras - all controlled and edited in the same giant scanner truck - 350 extras and 110 hours of rehearsal.
However, Radio Times's David Brown was startled by the violence of the show: "You sit down with the family to watch a special birthday episode of a pre-watershed soap and what do you get? Attempted rape in a campervan and death by polystyrene brick."
"If I were to be mean and rank this special against recent live editions of Corrie and EastEnders, then I don't think it quite had the tension and pace of its contemporaries."
"At times, almost too much seemed to be happening, the constantly shifting focus robbing some scenes of their dramatic potential."
But he applauded the performance of Lister as soap bad boy Carl King, whose death brought the show to a memorable conclusion.
"As Carl lay lifeless on the floor in those dying seconds, it really did feel like the end of an era."