Damien Johnson is likely to join the Birmingham City squad for the match away to Luton Town on Saturday after successfully coming through a reserve-team fixture.
The Northern Ireland international midfield player, who has not played since breaking his jaw against West Bromwich Albion on October 28, played the whole of the match yesterday afternoon against Port Vale.
While Johnson did little to catch the eye in the Potteries, the mere fact that he emerged unscathed did much to suggest that he is close to full fitness.
Johnson's jaw was broken in two places after he was elbowed by Paul Robinson in the latter stages of the match against Albion at St Andrew's eight weeks ago.
Initially, Johnson was unable to eat properly and he had to consume liquidised food through a straw.
His return to action is ahead of schedule, however, so Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, is optimistic that Johnson will be available for Birmingham's five matches in 15 days during the holiday period.
"We expect him to be back for the Christmas programme," Bruce said.
The reserve team lost 3-2 after conceding two goals in the final minute. Birmingham seemed set for victory until Sam Oji scored an own goal to equalise for Port Vale and then Louis Briscoe scored the winner in stoppage time.
Oliver Allen and Pat Kavanagh, on trial at St Andrew's, had earlier scored for Birmingham.
Johnson's return has come at a good time. Birmingham are walking a disciplinary tightrope with Stephen Clemence and Stephen Kelly on four yellow cards and thus one indiscretion each away from a suspension.
Also, Sebastian Larsson and Cameron Jerome will miss the match against Luton because of suspension.
Birmingham will lay a new pitch at St Andrew's in the new year after criticism by Bruce of the playing surface.
The pitch, which was grown as a spare for the new Wembley Stadium, will be laid after Bruce expressed concern about the deterioration in the current playing surface, which has become uneven and bobbly because of unseasonably warm weather.
The Coca-Cola Championship leaders, who have the worst pitch in the division, will spend #120,000 on installing the new pitch, with work due to take place on January 7.
The new pitch had been grown by specialist company Inturf at their turf farm in Lincolnshire in case there were any problems with the one already laid at Wembley.
Birmingham had hoped work would get under way tomorrow in order for the new pitch to be ready for the match on Boxing Day against Queens Park Rangers.
But it was decided it would be too risky, a supposition justified by last night's frost and fog, so it is now planned that the new pitch will be laid before Birmingham play at home to Leeds United on January 13.
"A big concern for me this season has been the pitch," Bruce said. "It has been so good in the past few years, but now it is horrible. The longer the season goes on, the worse it is going to get. A bobbly pitch is your worst scenario and, hopefully, the work in January will end that."
Marcos Painter has returned to Swansea City for another month, having spent the past few weeks on loan with the League One club. He will remain in South Wales at least until January 20.
Birmingham can recall the player immediately if they endure an injury or suspension crisis.
Kenny Jackett, the Swansea manager, said: "We have extended Marcos's loan spell. Whether it will go beyond a second month, I don't know at this stage.
"Birmingham manager Steve Bruce wants to see how his side comes through the busy Christmas and New Year period first with regards to injuries. For a 20-year-old, he is proving to be a very good player."