Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger maintained he had never given up on Nicklas Bendtner after the Denmark striker netted a late goal to help beat managerless Cardiff 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium, but is now set to be sidelined for few weeks with an ankle injury.
It had looked like the Bluebirds, with potential new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watching from the stands, would hold out for a much-needed point in the wake of relentless Arsenal pressure.
However, with just two minutes left, substitute Bendtner crashed the ball in from close range after David Marshall had saved Bacary Sagna's header before, in stoppage time, Theo Walcott sealed the victory which took the Gunners back to the top of the Barclays Premier League table.
Bendtner, however, is now set for a spell on the sidelines having sprained his ankle in scoring the goal which Wenger believes was reward for his positive attitude since returning to the first-team picture this season.
"Nicklas is a player who has gone through some difficult periods, so I just want to give him great credit," said Wenger, who was already without lead striker Olivier Giroud because of his own ankle problem.
"I told him already today that he is back to the level I want him to be at, and if he continues to develop like that he will come back into the team.
"Unfortunately he got injured today. He was a bit unlucky, he said he landed on the foot of a Cardiff player and sprained his ankle. It looks like it is not a question of days, but weeks.
"I am very sad for us, but for him as well."
Bendtner (25) has endured a testing spell of his career, with unsuccesful loans at the likes of Sunderland and Juventus before seeing hopes of a move to Crystal Palace on transfer deadline day fail to materialise, often becoming a focal point for fans' frustrations.
Wenger continued: "I never give up on people because you always have to give them credit.
Bendtner is out of contract at the end of the season, and so could now sign an agreement to move abroad as a free agent.
Wenger said: "It is January 1 so we cannot stop him [talking to clubs abroad], but he says he wants to stay here."