Monday night's dramatic events in Coronation Street netted an average 13m viewers, overnight figures show.
The second instalment of the soap featured an explosion and a tram crash which devastated the street and left the fate of many characters uncertain.
Last week's episode, which was broadcast in the same time slot, attracted an average audience of 9.6m.
The hard-hitting storyline was created to celebrate the soap's 50th anniversary.
The earlier episode, which started at 1930 GMT, attracted an average audience of 11.6 million viewers, an increase on last week's, which picked up 10.6 million.
The figures do not include any catch up services.
Critics were also positive about the episodes, with The Guardian's Grace Dent calling the tram crash "vivid and terrifying, arriving at the worst possible moment".
The Metro newspaper said: "Terribly formulaic yes, but it was a winning formula all the same. As the brutal chops between scenes became more frantic and more frequent, the tension was intolerable."
Coronation Street was first broadcast on 9 December 1960 and the original episode was shown on Monday between the dramatic double bill.
It featured William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow and is the only original cast member still in the show.
After the dramatic tram crash scenes were broadcast, an ITV News trailer featuring newsreader Alastair Stewart was shown immediately afterwards.
He announced there had been an explosion on Coronation Street and linked to a reporter on the scene as if the drama was being played out for real.
Several storylines reached crisis point during the two instalments of the soap.
Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall) found out he was not the biological father of his son Jack, and Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) was faced with choosing between fiance Peter Barlow and lover Nick Tilsley.
The anniversary of the first episode's broadcast will be marked on Thursday with a live hour-long instalment.