Numerical problems are often encountered in modelling crack propagation in concrete beams using non-linear finite element (FE) analysis, especially when sharp snap-back behaviour in load–displacement relations occurs. This paper firstly identifies 16 arc-length control based numerical strategies based on extensive literature review. They are then used to carefully model the structural behaviour of a four-point single notched shear beam using discrete crack modelling approach in which cracks are represented by interface elements with bilinear softening constitutive laws. Based on extensive FE analyses, detailed comparisons of the merits and demerits of these numerical algorithms are then made. The results indicate that the effectiveness and efficiency of different algorithms may vary considerably from one to another, with the local arc-length based procedures in conjunction with tangential stiffness strategy and reversible unloading model being the most robust.