Jack King came in from the cold to reach a Preston North End appearance landmark in the derby clash with Fleetwood.
The 1-1 draw at Highbury Stadium was King’s 100th game in a PNE shirt.
It was the 29-year-old’s first time on the pitch for nearly two months,as he took the place of Bailey Wright, who was on international duty.
North End manager Simon Grayson told the Evening Post: “We wanted to play with three centre-halves.
“Calum Woods was another option to play there but we decided to go with Jack.
“For the last few weeks we had told the players out of the team that their chance would come at some stage.
“Jack was one of those lads and he came in and played very well.
“He was very composed in his play – he did what we asked him to do.
“Having players away on international duty was not ideal but we covered the loss of them well.
“Jack has kept himself nice and sharp when out of the team, which is credit to him.”
King’s last league start was against Bradford in November.
He started the FA Cup win over Norwich on January 3 but first-team opportunities have been scarce since then.
Before Sunday, his last appearance was as a substitute in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy second-leg tie at Walsall on January 27.
King is approaching the end of his third season with PNE after joining on a Bosman from Conference side Woking in July 2012.
Although the draw against Fleetwood was viewed by Grayson as two points dropped, it kept automatic promotion in their own hands.
They lead Swindon in third place by four points and are five clear of MK Dons.
Swindon have a game in hand over North End, while MK have played the same number of matches.
Over Easter, Grayson’s men play before both of their rivals for automatic promotion.
They host Rochdale at Deepdale on Good Friday (3pm), with Swindon at home to MK Dons on Saturday lunchtime.
On Easter Monday, Preston head to Bradford, with Swindon and MK both playing on Tuesday night.
Swindon go to Bristol City and Karl Robinson’s side tackle Scunthorpe.
Said Grayson: “We are in a strong position and it is ours to lose.
“If we win all our games we get promotion, that is the simple equation.
“Over the next few weeks teams will both pick up points and drop them.
“We are in good form, 11 games unbeaten, creating chances and our confidence is very high.
“Talking to the players after Sunday’s game, we have told them that the point we got could be really valuable come the end of the season.
“You never know, it could be the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs.”
Grayson hopes that a virus doing the rounds at the club last week has run its course as the build up starts to Rochdale’s visit.
“Three or four of the players were suffering from the virus at the back end of last week and maybe that was a factor in how we finished the game at Fleetwood,” said Grayson.