Sunderland boss David Moyes has been dealt a fresh blow after learning that striker Victor Anichebe could be sidelined for around 10 weeks by a knee injury.
The 28-year-old was hurt minutes after coming on as a substitute in Saturday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at West Brom, but managed to finish the game.
However, Press Association Sport understands a scan has since confirmed that he suffered medial ligament damage and that means he is likely to be out of action for up to 10 weeks.
With Duncan Watmore already on the long-term casualty list, that means Jermain Defoe is Moyes' only fit specialist senior frontman, although Fabio Borini can play in that role.
With just a week of the January transfer window remaining, and funds tight on Wearside, the Black Cats face another major challenge to try to find cover for yet another desperate fight against relegation.
Free agent Anichebe signed a short-term deal until the end of the season in September after impressing in training under his former Everton manager and has quickly become a crowd favourite.
He returned to the squad at the Hawthorns after a hamstring injury, but now faces a lengthy spell in the treatment room.