Cardiff City defender Ben Turner said he felt a huge weight lift off his shoulders after completing his first 90 minutes in almost a year.
Turner damaged his knee while playing for Coventry in November, an injury which eventually required surgery.
The road to recovery has been slow, but Turner finally made his first start for Cardiff against Ipswich on Saturday.
"I waited a long time to get back so I was delighted to get out there and I'm happy I came through it," he said.
"It's almost a year to the weekend since I was injured. I tried to come back a few times at Coventry when my knee wasn't right and in the end I needed an operation on it.
"As you can imagine it was very frustrating. It tests you out mentally. And towards the end, when you know your knee is right but you need to build yourself back up, it tests you physically.
"I'm just delighted I'm at a stage where I can play."
Turner was still injured when he joined Cardiff from Coventry in a deadline day deal, thought to be worth £750,000.
His proposed debut in a Carling Cup match against Leicester in September was thwarted by a minor groin injury picked up in training, adding to Turner sense of frustration.
But he first taste of action in Cardiff colours came as a late substitute against Hull on 1 October when he was thrown on as a makeshift striker as the Bluebirds tried to salvage a draw.
The subsequent international break gave Turner more time to work on his fitness, and the centre-back was handed his full debut in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Ipswich.
"For short periods I started to think if I was ever going to get back," admitted the former England Under-19 international.
"But you have to believe that you will get back. My injury was never considered career-threatening but I asking myself why I wasn't back.
"But it's all behind me now so I'm happy."
Anthony Gerrard was the victim of Turner's introduction into the side as he lost his usual place alongside Mark Hudson.
With Darcy Blake also vying for one of those spots after impressive displays for Wales, manager Malky Mackay faces tough decisions over the next few games.
"That's not a bad thing at a football club where you've got an area where you've got people competing for places," he said Mackay.
"Eventually it's what we'd like all over the pitch."