Campaigners battling to save a hospital ward in Co Down on Friday won a High Court declaration that its closure was unlawful.
But a judge refused to order that the 20-bed unit at Bangor Community Hospital must be reopened.
Legal action was launched following the closure of the GP ward late last year.
The decision, described as temporary, was taken as part of wider budget cuts within the health service.
One of those who uses the hospital, Bangor woman Eleanor Wilson, issued judicial review proceedings in a bid to have the move reversed.
Ms Wilson’s legal team argued that no public consultation was carried out.
Lawyers for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust contended that it was under no such duty because it was a temporary shut-down.
But that position changed just before the case was due to be heard in full on Friday.
Mr Justice Treacy was able to make a declaration that the closure of the hospital’s in-patient ward was unlawful due to a lack of consultation.
With that process now underway, he declined to direct its immediate reopening.
Following the outcome Ms Wilson’s solicitor stressed that she had taken the case on behalf of her wider community.
Gary Adair of Wilson Nesbitt law firm said: “Our clients are delighted that the judge decided the closure of the GP ward at Bangor Hospital was unlawful.
“They are disappointed that the local health and social services trust are not responding to that by reopening the hospital.”
Mr Adair added: “Our clients would encourage everyone in the local community to take an active part in the current consultation process as regards the future of the hospital.”