Gibraltar's football league won provisional entry into European football's governing body UEFA on Monday, moving forward in a membership bid that is hotly opposed by Spain.
UEFA's executive committee took the decision at a meeting in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, falling in line with an earlier ruling in Gibraltar's favour by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
"The committee has admitted Gibraltar as a provisional member of UEFA as from today," UEFA said in a statement published online.
"This follows a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in August 2011. A decision on the admission of the Gibraltar Football Association as a full member of UEFA will be taken by the XXXVII Ordinary UEFA Congress in London in May 2013."
Gibraltar previously won provisional membership of UEFA in December 2006, also after a favourable CAS ruling, only to be turned down a month later by a large majority in a UEFA Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The latest decision to admit Gibraltar on a provisional basis was greeted with joy by Gibraltar, but Spain vowed to fight it by every legal means available.
"We are very pleased at the outcome," Gibraltar Football Association general secretary Richard Manning told AFP.
"We would like to thank UEFA for taking the decision."
The Gibraltar football boss said there were still "quite a few obstacles" to gaining full membership at the vote in May.
Entry to UEFA would be important to the tiny territory, he said, allowing youth teams in particular to compete against other European teams instead of being "static" on the Rock.
"We are very passionate about our football in Gibraltar," Manning said.
The Gibraltar Football League was established in 1895, he said.
The league comprises six teams in the premier division, 10 in reserves, 12 in the second division, three women's teams, and 47 junior teams from under-sevens to under-16s with about 600 young players.
Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. Britain refuses to do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians.
Spain's government would oppose Gibraltar's UEFA membership "with every legal means possible", a Spanish foreign ministry spokeswoman told news agency Europa Press.