Stuart Holden has set his sights on securing regular first-team football after making his first senior appearance since 2011 in Bolton's 2-0 FA Cup win over Sunderland.
The USA international came on as a substitute for the final 16 minutes of the third-round replay at the Stadium of Light, the first time he has lined up for Wanderers since a Carling Cup tie at Aston Villa 16 months ago because of persistent knee problems.
That was the only game he played in an abortive comeback and Holden has not appeared in the league since suffering a cruciate ligament injury when fouled by Manchester United's Jonny Evans in March 2011.
"It was great just to be a part of it all again," Holden told Bolton's official website. "I It's been so long. I've played a few reserve games but nothing compares to being out there with the first team.
"I was sitting in the hotel reflecting on the last year-and-a-half and how much work I've done and how many days I've spent in the gym. For that to culminate now and being back with the first team, doing what I love, was a special moment for me.
"We're under a new manager now and he's brought in some new philosophies and I really feel that he'll help me move on to another level as a player. I want to kick on and get back in the team and be a regular in the starting XI."
It was Holden's first appearance under boss Dougie Freedman, who replaced the sacked Owen Coyle in October, and the Scot was pleased to have him back.
Freedman told BBC Radio Manchester: "He's a battler and a winner. When he came on the field, I was so delighted. He's got a long way to go, but he knows that this club are fully behind him."