Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has revealed key midfielder Lee Cattermole will be out of action for at least 12 weeks.
However, that has come as a huge relief to Bruce, whose initial fear was the player's season could have been ended by the medial ligament damage he suffered during Saturday's 1-0 win over Liverpool.
Bruce told the Sunderland Echo: "We think it will be at least 12 weeks for Catts. He's done his medial ligament. It's not good news, but it's the best we could have hoped."
He added: "We were all praying he had not done his cruciate and damaged cartilage, which thankfully he hasn't - but he's still out for the best part of three months."
Cattermole has made a huge impact on Wearside since his £6million summer switch from Wigan.
Bruce was swift to lure him back to the north-east - he started his career at neighbouring Middlesbrough - a year after investing £3.5million to take him to Wigan, where he was manager at the time.
Cattermole's central midfield partnership with new skipper Lorik Cana has been a major feature of the club's excellent start to the Barclays Premier League campaign.
The 21-year-old Stockton-born enforcer has just shaken off a troublesome heel injury which had hampered him for several weeks and kept him out of the England Under-21s squad for their most recent fixture earlier this month.
Bruce said: "You feel for the boy because he's had a great start here and has epitomised what we are about and why we brought him here.
"He's done everything we knew he would."