The Home Secretary lost his appeal today against High Court rulings that he had unlawfully refused accommodation to three destitute asylum seekers and therefore violated their human rights.
Hundreds of other similar cases had been awaiting new guidelines from Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Lord Justice Carnwath and Lord Justice Jacob, who decided against the Home Secretary in a 2-1 majority decision.
The test cases, involving Wayoka Limbuela, Binyam Tefera Tesema and Yusif Adam, follow several high profile clashes involving David Blunkett and members of the judiciary over hard-hitting laws aimed at discouraging applicants from making late asylum claims.
Today's ruling came as a blow to the Government, with a Home Office spokesman saying: "We are disappointed that the appeals have been dismissed by a split decision of 2-1."
The judges gave Mr Blunkett permission to appeal further to the House of Lords, the country's highest court.
Under the 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, would-be refugees are obliged to make their asylum claims at their port of entry, or as soon as reasonably practicable, or face being denied state help with food and shelter.
But Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights states that no one should be subjected to "inhuman or degrading treatment".
Both Lord Justice Carnwath and Lord Justice Jacob ruled that in all three test cases the refusal to give support had crossed the Article 3 threshold. Lord Justice Laws disagreed and said he would have allowed the Home Secretary's appeals.