Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole will be sidelined until the New Year after being ruled out for at least 12 weeks with a knee injury.
Cattermole damaged medial ligaments during Saturday's 1-0 win at home to Liverpool and faces a lengthy spell out of action.
The England Under 21 international has been a key figure in the Black Cats' bright start to the season and Steve Bruce admits his influence will be missed.
However, the Sunderland boss concedes he feared the former Middlesbrough youngster could have been sidelined for the rest of the season and that a three-month absence is the best-case scenario.
"We think it will be at least 12 weeks for Catts," Bruce told the Sunderland Echo.
"He's done his medial ligament. It's not good news, but it's the best we could have have hoped.
"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.
"We have a few options in midfield. You feel for the boy because he's had a great start here and has epitomised what we're about and why we brought him here.
"He's done everything we knew he would.
"He couldn't wait to rampage around the park last weekend and for the part of the game he was on the pitch, he was fantastic.
"We will miss him, but we have others who can step in."
Meanwhile, Bruce is hoping striker Kenwyne Jones could face Birmingham City this weekend after suffering an ankle injury against Liverpool.