Titus Bramble could still play a part in Newcastle's bid for a rousing finish to a traumatic season.
The 24-year-old defender has managed only 19 starts this season and has missed the last seven matches with a hamstring problem.
Bramble was pencilled in for a return against Liverpool last month, the game which saw £8million partner Jean-Alain Boumsong sink to the lowest point of his time on Tyneside, only to suffer a setback in training.
However, he came through 45 minutes of a practice match yesterday and is in contention for Sunday's derby at Middlesbrough.
With midfielder Kieron Dyer, who was rested for the 3-1 victory over Tottenham last week, expected to return to training tomorrow caretaker boss Glenn Roeder has fresh cause for optimism.
'We had a practice match of seniors against a team from the Academy yesterday and Titus got in a good 45 minutes,' he said.
'I would be disappointed if we did not have him in our squad at Middlesbrough on Sunday.
'And we are optimistic Kieron Dyer will also be available for selection on Sunday.'
Bramble's return will provide a boost to a beleaguered defence which has been short on numbers for much of the season with Steven Taylor recovering from surgery on A dislocated shoulder and Andy O'Brien and Aaron Hughes having left during the summer.