Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic is facing at least six weeks on the sidelines following surgery on a long-standing knee problem.
It is a huge blow to the Premier League side who are just three points above the drop zone in the top-flight.
The club’s medical staff had been hoping to manage the Croatian's knee through to the end of the season.
However, following the goalless stalemate at Leicester last weekend it was decided Jelavic should have an operation "as soon as possible to prevent further damage and complications in the future".
The 29-year-old, who has scored eight Premier League goals this season, underwent arthroscopic surgery at a hospital in London and will now begin a rehabilitation programme which could keep him out for the remainder of the season.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce said: "We hope he'll do his best to try and play a part but if we're going to be realistic, it could force him out for the rest of the season.
"It came to a head when he couldn't really train again last week. For how brave he is and how tough he is, there's probably only him that could carry on the way he has."
Jelavic had only just recovered from a knee injury sustained in the 1-0 defeat by West Brom on January 10.