The live 50th anniversary episode of Coronation Street attracted an average audience of 14 million people, according to overnight figures.
The ambitious show involved 65 actors and a 300-strong crew portraying the aftermath of a devastating gas explosion and tram crash.
Critics have largely hailed the hour-long special episode a huge success.
At its climax, two characters appeared to die from their injuries.
TV critic Martin Newman, who originally dismissed the soap when he reviewed the first episode in 1960, wrote in the Daily Mirror that the live episode sent "nervous shivers down my spine".
He said actress Jane Danson, who plays Leanne Battersby, gave the best performance of the night.
Actress Sally Lindsay, who used to play Shelley Unwin in the soap, paid tribute to her former colleagues in The Sun.
"I admit I was looking for any little hiccups but I didn't see a single one. It was absolutely superb and I'm proud of them all," she said.
The Guardian's Mark Lawson said: "Everything seemed smooth, although the producers were clever in setting every scene among characters under stress or grief, so any flapping might have been taken as acting."
In The Independent Gerard Gilbert called the live show an "exciting, well-crafted episode of a soap opera", but suggested there were a few mistakes.
"Alison King as Carla seemed to lose the thread at one point, but it's hard to be sure in the circumstances, and William Roache was a bit indistinct at times, but then he was standing over his son's deathbed," he wrote.
The Metro's Rachel Tarley claimed there were a "few camera-focus issues" but it was "actually nigh-on impossible to tell the hour-long special apart from a regular Corrie episode".
Although she added there was "a lot of tearless crying as some of the actors struggled to turn on the waterworks on cue".
There have been months of speculation about the identities of those who would be killed off in the catastrophe.
On Wednesday, Ashley Peacock - a Street regular for 14 years, played by Steven Arnold - was seen being crushed to death after the Joinery bar collapsed.
On Thursday, viewers saw Peter Barlow and Molly Dobbs seem to succumb to their injuries.
The storyline has been billed as "four funerals and a wedding".
The show's golden jubilee episode was its first live edition for a decade.
The show's last live broadcast was screened in 2000 to mark the soap's 40th anniversary.
Coronation Street, created by scriptwriter Tony Warren, was originally commissioned for 13 episodes and first went out on 9 December 1960.