Sunderland's promotion prospects received a significant boost last night when it emerged Carlos Edwards is expected to be fit for the Championship run-in.
The Trinidad and Tobago international has not played since a worrying shoulder problem at West Bromwich Albion almost three weeks ago, and it was feared he would not feature for the Black Cats again this season.
Edwards last night allayed such concerns and, having revealed his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule, the winger is looking forward to making a timely comeback for Roy Keane's team.
The 28-year-old has refused to rule himself out of Sunderland's next game at Cardiff on March 31.
But although there seems little chance of the club's medical staff sanctioning his participation at Ninian Park, the following weekend's fixture against Mick McCarthy's Wolves appears a realistic target.
"I don't know if I will have a chance for Cardiff but I do want to get playing again as soon as possible," said a player who was told he would be sidelined for between six and eight weeks following tests on a damaged shoulder joint.
"At the moment, we're looking at five weeks."
The five-week point will coincide with the returns of McCarthy, Gary Breen, Neill Collins and Jody Craddock to the Stadium of Light and, considering the significance of the meeting between promotion rivals, Edwards is determined to make his comeback against Wolves.
"It is difficult watching games - I'm nearly jumping out of the stands and onto the pitch - and I hope I'm back soon," he said. "If it had worked out differently, I might have been out for the rest of the season.
"But as it is, it looks as though I shall definitely be back for some stage of it. I just hope it's sooner rather than later."
The club's medical staff are reluctant to put a specific date on the player's comeback but, having revealed he is being protected from all physical contact during the limited training sessions in which he is able to participate, it is clear Edwards has much work to do.
"I just don't know how long I'm going to be out," he admitted. "I'm pleased with the way things seem to be going but it's difficult to put an exact time on it.
"Hopefully I won't lose my fitness too much and the running I'm doing is helping me. I have been a quick healer in the past but we're just seeing how it goes on a day-to-day basis.
"It's a shame because I felt I was playing well and I really miss playing. There is never a good time to pick up an injury, though, and I just have to get on with it."
Keane will be reluctant to take any chances with the former Luton favourite and, with three important games against Cardiff, Wolves and Southampton on the horizon, the Irishman could yet decide to make a final move in the transfer market to cover the problematic right-wing position.
He will have until today's 5pm Football League deadline to make an emergency loan signing.
The prospects of engineering a successful result at Cardiff next weekend have improved following the news Michael Chopra will miss the game.
The former Newcastle striker is the Championship's leading scorer with 21 goals but, having injured a hamstring, he is expected to miss the next four first-team fixtures.