Duncan Watmore could make his return from injury in Saturday’s crunch clash at Norwich City after returning to full training this week.
Watmore has been sidelined since February after damaging ankle ligaments during Sunderland’s 2-2 draw at Liverpool.
The 22-year-old was originally expected to be out for around three months; leaving him facing an uphill battle to feature again this season.
But Watmore has been ahead of schedule throughout his recovery from injury and has now started joining in training with the rest of his Sunderland team-mates three weeks sooner than expected.
Watmore could be in contention for a place in the squad for this weekend’s pivotal encounter against fellow relegation rivals Norwich City, although the visit of Arsenal eight days later is a more likely date for his comeback.
Yet the forward’s return to health is another boost to Sam Allardyce’s options, with a fully fit squad now at the Sunderland manager’s disposal.
Watmore was the only first-teamer on the treatment table, with the lack of injury concerns prompting the likes of Seb Larsson, Jeremain Lens and Ola Toivonen to miss out on a place on the bench over recent weeks.
Toivonen was axed from the squad for last weekend’s defeat against Leicester, with substitute Lens making his first competitive appearance for Sunderland since February.