The channel was helped to victory by new nature documentary series Earthflight, which opened with 5.12m (20.2%) at 8pm, and Great Expectation's finale audience of 5.92m (24%) in the 9pm hour, as well as a bumper audience for EastEnders.
Despite airing 90 minutes of soaps, ITV1 lagged behind with Paddy McGuinness review show Paddy's 2011 Show and Telly entertaining 3.76m (15.2%) at 9pm (+1: 163k/0.9%).
Elsewhere, Dragons' Den (8pm) special 'The Hilary Devey Story' pulled in 1.5m (5.9%) for BBC Two, then 9pm double act QI and Never Mind the Buzzcocks appealed to respective audiences of 2.13m (8.5%) and 1.53m (6.3%).
Channel 4's latest Living with the Amish interested 992k (3.9%) from 8pm (+1: 259k/0.9%), after which 1.48m (6.3%) watched film Dorian Gray (+1: 270k/1.8%).
The World's Strongest Man mustered 1.08m (4.3%) for Channel 5, before the audience dropped to 1.29m (5.2%) at 9pm for The Mentalist. Amy Childs documentary It's All About Amy continued to struggle with 398k (2%) from 10pm.
Overall, BBC One led primetime with 22.8%, ahead of ITV1's 20.4% (+1: 0.6%), BBC Two's 6.1%, Channel 4's 5.2% (+1: 0.7%), and Channel 5's 3.2%.
A Celebrity Juice special topped the multichannel ratings with 1.16m (6%) at 10pm (+1: 206k/1.7%).
BARB ratings data supplied by Attentional