Updated on July 8, 2011 at 11:44 a.m.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out a judge’s order lifting the NFL lockout, handing the league a key victory.

The appellate court issued its decision Friday, even as the league and its locked-out players continue negotiations intended to strike a new collective bargaining agreement and start the 2011 season on time. The first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 7, less than a month away.

“While we respect the court’s decision, today’s ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation,” the NFL and NFLPA said in joint statement. “We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come, and allow for a full 2011 season.”

The appellate court ruled on an April 25 decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who put the lockout on hold after players argued they were suffering irreparable harm. The appeals court put that order on hold and its final decision said Nelson ignored federal law in reaching her decision.

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