The children's heart unit at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital will stay open after surviving a nationwide review.
Supporters gathered on Tyneside to hear the announcement from the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT), which came almost four hours later than expected.
The committee was considering four options for the future of 11 specialist units in England. Three of them would have kept the Freeman unit open but one would have forced it to close.
Because of the way the options are structured, the children's heart unit at Leeds will now close and many patients from Yorkshire will be treated at Newcastle instead.
The decision was part of a streamlining of children's heart surgery.
The Safe and Sustainable review followed the landmark inquiry into children's heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1990 and 1995, where up to 35 children and babies died as a result of poor care.
In the wake of the inquiry, it was recommended that paediatric cardiac surgery be concentrated in a few specialist centres in order to ensure quality of care.
Newcastle Hospitals describes the Freeman unit as: "The only unit in the UK able to offer all forms of heart treatment, regardless of age, under one roof."
It serves a population catchment of around three million people.
The unit has been supported by a regionwide awareness and fundraising campaign.
Top fundraisers include Ivan Hollingsworth, who has raised more then £200,000 for the Children's Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) since his son Sebastian underwent lifesaving surgery there.
TV presenter Ben Shephard has raised more than £15,000 for the cause through a series of charity events.
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