Everton midfielder Seamus Coleman's return from injury has given manager David Moyes another timely boost.
The Toffees are on a high after back-to-back home wins over Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City and Chelsea.
And Coleman's goalscoring return for the reserves more than a month after being sidelined with a thigh problem provides more good news as the club look to maintain progress in both the league and FA Cup.
Teenager Ross Barkley, who made such an impact in the first two months of the season but has not featured since November 26 because of a knee problem, also stepped up his bid for full fitness with a run out and goal in the 6-3 win over Newcastle at the club's Finch Farm training complex.
It leaves only Phil Jagielka (knee), Leon Osman (knee) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) of the senior players to return from injury.
Rodwell, who has made only three appearances since November, was in training last week until he suffered a setback.
However, Jagielka's return was scheduled for late February/early March and the defender is looking forward to edging closer to first-team involvement.
"It has probably been the longest January ever but I have got over that and am out of the brace and starting to do more in training as well," said the centre-back, who has not played since damaging medial knee ligaments in the defeat to Bolton on January 4.
Moyes' squad options were boosted further after the club announced they had signed 20-year-old former Benfica academy graduate Francisco Junior on a free transfer.
The midfielder, who has been capped twice by Portugal Under-21s and spent some time in Manchester City's development squad earlier this season, has signed a four-and-a-half year deal, subject to receiving international clearance.