Declan Donnelly acknowledged Ant McPartlin’s absence as he opened Saturday Night Takeaway on its return.
The presenter is without his normal sidekick after Ant stepped down from his TV commitments when he was charged with drink driving earlier this month.
Presenting the show on his own for the first time in his history, Dec was given a rapturous welcome by the studio audience who he high-fived on his way to the stage.
He thanked them for their “very, very, warm reception”, before adding: “I’ve got twice the amount of work to do so we’re going to crack on and say hello to our star guest announcer Mr Stephen Merchant.”
Merchant then asked Dec if he needed a hand presenting as there was “a little bit of space on the stage”, before the pair exchanged a joke about their height difference.
Although officially hosting solo, Dec was offered a helping hand by presenter Davina McCall for a new segment of the show related to McCall’s own show, This Time Next Year.
The pair teamed up to offer a surprise to audience member Diane for This Time Next Takeaway, which involved the surprised guest’s family members.
McPartlin appeared in the opening titles of the show and will also appear in the episode as part of the duo’s pre-recorded Saturday Knight Takeaway sketch after ITV decided it should be broadcast.
Scarlett Moffatt and Stephen Mulhern will be on hand in their regular support roles.
Hours before the live show, the programme’s official Twitter account previewed the script which confirmed Dec would be hosting alone.
They wrote: “Just a little photo to prove that we don’t just wing it, there is actually a script!”
Dec, 42, who recently confirmed he is going to be a father, will also present next week’s final episode in Florida.
McPartlin has stepped back from his TV commitments and returned to rehab after he was charged with drink driving earlier this month.
He will appear in court on April 4.