The National Television Awards scooped five million viewers – up on last year – as fans tuned in to see whether Ant and Dec would secure yet another trophy.
The duo won their 18th consecutive gong at the ceremony, voted for by viewers, despite Ant McPartlin having been off-screen for much of the time.
A peak of 5.9 million viewers and an average of five million tuned into the show, on ITV, which also saw Richard Madden and Danny Dyer decorated with awards.
The ceremony was up around 400,000 on last year’s event, which attracted 4.6 million viewers.
But it was still down on 2017, which secured an average of 5.4 million.
Ant and Dec saw off competition from Bradley Walsh, Graham Norton, Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield to claim best presenter.
An emotional and “shaking” Ant, speaking from the set of Britain’s Got Talent, hugged his presenting partner after the “genuine shock, especially this year” of winning.
“I really don’t think that I can accept this award this year,” the star, who stepped away from TV duties following his arrest for drink-driving, told fans.
Showering his presenting partner with praise, he said: “The one reason we won the award this year is because of this guy – his hard work, dedication, wit, funniness.”
Dec used the opportunity to tease Dermot O’Leary on TV, after the host of the TV awards ceremony had told the Press Association that if the duo “win it, having not been on television, we may as well just chuck in the towel!”
“Special mention to Dermot who said he was going to chuck the towel in if we won this year, so happy retirement Dermot!,” Dec quipped.
“Olly (Murs) and Caroline (Flack), you’re back on the X (Factor),” he joked of the former presenters of O’Leary’s other TV presenting gig.
Willoughby and Schofield praised Ant and Dec, their rivals in the presenter category.
“It was so lovely. They’ve had a year of it, those two, that’s for sure, and lovely for Dec also. I mean Ant said it didn’t he,” Willoughby, who presented I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! with Dec, said.
Schofield said on This Morning, which won best daytime show: “It was a lovely speech from them, a big relief for them, a hell of a year.”
TV watchdog Ofcom said that the awards sparked 18 complaints from viewers, including nine about Danny Dyer’s swearing just after 9pm, when he won serial drama performance for his EastEnders role.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We will assess these complaints before deciding whether or not to investigate.”
The night also saw Richard Madden win best drama performance for his role in BBC One’s Bodyguard, which also claimed best new drama.
Other winners include Britain’s Got Talent star David Walliams for TV judge, Peter Kay for best comedy for Peter Kay’s Car Share and Peaky Blinders for best drama.