DEREK Branning's last gasp helped EastEnders retain its traditional spot at the top of the Christmas Day ratings as the BBC dominated festive viewing.
The main channels' period ratings hits Call The Midwife and Downton Abbey tied with an average audience of 7.3m viewers, although Downton was 1.3m down on last year.
Overnight figures show EastEnders pulled in an average 9.4m viewers for the climactic episode last night in which fearsome Branning, played by Jamie Foreman, keeled over and died from a heart attack. ITV's Coronation Street was runner-up with 8.8m.
Many had expected the period blockbusters to lead the field, but soaps were still the strongest force. However, viewing figures were down for many shows, with EastEnders thought to be the lowest for Christmas Day for a decade.
Call The Midwife drew its smallest audience since launching earlier this year, and Doctor Who, on 7.6m viewers, also had an average audience 1.3m fewer than in 2011.
However the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special was up 300,000 year on year to 7.8m viewers.
The queen's Christmas message was seen by 36,000 people in 3D on the BBC's HD channel -- the first time it has been broadcast in that format -- although 6.3m saw it on BBC1 and 2.2m saw it on ITV1.
BBC1 had seven of the top 10 programmes.
And BBC1 took 31.7pc of the audience from 6pm to 10.30pm -- when many of the biggest shows are broadcast -- with ITV1 landing 26.9pc.
However when "consolidated" figures are totted up they often tell a very different story. Last year Downton drew 8.6m on the day but including catch-up viewing, the figure shot up.
The overnight top 10 for Christmas Day were:
1 EastEnders, BBC1 -- 9.4m
2 Coronation Street, ITV1 -- 8.8m
3 Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1 -- 7.8m
4 The Royle Family, BBC1 -- 7.7m
5 Dr Who, BBC1 -- 7.6m
6= Downton Abbey, ITV1 -- 7.3m
6= Call The Midwife, BBC1 -- 7.3m
8 The Queen, BBC1 -- 6.3m
9 Emmerdale, ITV1 -- 6.2m
10 BBC News, BBC1 -- 6.1m