He joked that he had to do double the work after Ant stepped down from future TV commitments.
Presenting on his own for the first time in the programme's history, Dec oversaw an nearly seamless live 90-minute show with his only mishap dropping a carton of popcorn. I didn't sleep an bad lot last night so I'm off to bed!
However, Dec and the production team made a decision to complete the show's run and air the remaining two episodes.
Ant was not completely absent from the programme.
He was supported throughout tonight's show by Stephen Mulhern, Scarlett Moffat and surprise guest Davina McCall.
Dec then took the opportunity to bid farewell to The London Studios, home to Saturday Night Takeaway since 2002, and wandered the corridors of the soon-to-close Southbank building where he and Ant also filmed SM:TV Live.
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"If we monetized our customer, if our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money", Cook said . "We've elected not to do that", he continued.
It's also thought that Dec will make "a lower key entrance than usual" when he takes to the stage as the Geordie duo usually open the show to much fanfare, running through the studio audience as a live band plays.
Following the airing of the pre-recorded sketch which saw Ant and Dec reunited, Merchant said: "That other guy was good, you should do more stuff with him".
One viewer said: "Dec has smashed tonight's #SaturdayNightTakeaway".
And referencing Dec's first solo effort, he assured him: "I don't care what the producers are saying back here - I think you're doing a great job".
Dec, 42, who recently confirmed he is going to be a father, will also present next week's final episode in Florida.
Ant was charged with drink-driving following a collision on March 18, and is expected to appear in court on April 4.
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