Sherlock, BBC1’s contemporary update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries, gripped 7m viewers at 9pm last night – making it the channel’s third biggest Sunday night drama in the past year.

A Study in Pink, the first of three 90-minute cases for the sleuth, delivered a 28.5% share for the channel from 9pm, according to overnight Barb figures from Attentional.

Once HD figures are added in, the figure rises to 7.5m.

The only BBC1 Sunday night dramas to have performed better since last July were the Doctor Who special The Waters of Mars, which pulled in 9.9m in November, and last September’s series of Waking the Dead, which averaged 7.2m.

A high-profile launch for Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ drama helped BBC1 to reach almost twice as many viewers as ITV1, where Taggart’s latest case continued with 3.7m (14.5%).

The return of BBC2’s Coast gave ITV1 a run for its money, with 3.2m (12.4%) tuning in over the hour from 9pm, just shy of the previous series debut of 3.5m (16.6%).

Elsewhere at 9pm, Big Brother ploughed on with 2.2m (8.6%) and a further 310,300 (1.6%) on C4+1.

At 8pm, the combined star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz lifted Top Gear to the best ratings of its current run, with 5.8m (22.3%) tuning in - plus another 598,300 on BBC HD.

It comfortably won the slot ahead of ITV1’s Heartbeat, with 4.7m (17.9%) and BBC1’s Countryfile with 4.2m (16.2%).

C4’s new factual series, Amish: World’s Squarest Teenagers got off to a strong start in the same slot, averaging 2.4m (9.2%), with C4+1’s (547,500 (2.1%) inching it towards a total audience of 3m.

There was less cheer at 7pm however, where another new four-part documentary series, Orchestra United, in which conductor James Lowe sets up a youth orchestra in Manchester, pulled in just 500,000 (2.4%). A further 53,200 (0.2%) watched on C4+1.

Twice as many viewers opted for the rather more glitzy musical extravaganza of Don’t Stop Believing on Five. However, the show’s 1.1m (4.8%) was down on last week’s opening number of 1.4m (6.6%).