Sunderland's bid to secure their Premier League status has suffered a serious blow with the news that striker Steven Fletcher is out for the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage.
Fletcher, 25, was stretchered off during the early stages of Scotland's World Cup qualifier against Wales on Friday night after landing awkwardly.
Although scans had revealed there was no break, the Black Cats' top scorer will now miss the final eight matches of the campaign with the club just four points above the drop zone.
And there was further bad news for manager Martin O'Neill with midfielder Lee Cattermole also out of the run-in. He has struggled for fitness after being injured against Queens Park Rangers at the end of November, and has made just two appearances since and last played on February 2 against Arsenal.
A statement on the club's official website read: "Sunderland have confirmed today that striker Steven Fletcher and captain Lee Cattermole will miss the rest of the current campaign due to injury.
"Cattermole underwent an operation on his knee earlier today and Fletcher sustained ankle ligament damage whilst on international duty with Scotland.
"It is not known at this stage if Fletcher will require an operation, with the injury requiring further assessment in the coming weeks. Both players will play no further part in the Black Cats 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season."
Sunderland are bottom of the form table without a win in seven games, losing four of those. They have not won a Premier League fixture since January 19. They face a string of difficult fixtures over the next month, including visits from Manchester United and Everton as well as trips to both Chelsea and Newcastle.