Izzy Brown will miss the rest of the season after suffering an anterior cruciate knee ligament (ACL) tear in Brighton and Hove Albion's FA Cup defeat of Crystal Palace, which has forced him to return to parent club Chelsea to begin his rehabilitation.
The 21-year-old lasted just six minutes of the 2-1 third-round success over the Eagles before being replaced by Sam Baldock. He now returns to West London from his loan spell at the Amex Stadium, where he will be assessed further and the length of his absence can be determined.
What is certain, however, is Brown's campaign is all-but over following an encouraging term in which he made 15 appearances for Brighton, scene of the fourth loan spell of a career that has produced just one senior appearance for Chelsea.
"Not the news I wanted to hear, I have torn my ACL and it will need surgery to fix," Brown, who has had spells at Vitesse Arnhem, Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town prior to this season, wrote on Instagram. "I will come back fitter and stronger and hopefully be ready for next season.
"Thank you to everyone at Brighton for the love and support they showed towards me, the fans, the staff, and all the players. I've met some amazing people here and these memories will be with me forever."
Brown is the third loan player to return to Chelsea this month, after the Premier League champions opted to recall Kasey Palmer and Ike Ugbo from their respective spells at Huddersfield Town and Barnsley due to a lack of game time.
While the Blues are yet to find a new club for Palmer, 19-year-old Ugbo will spend the second half of the campaign with Milton Keynes Dons.
Having played regularly for Brighton during the opening five months of the season, it remains to be seen whether Brighton will act upon Brown being ruled out for the rest of the campaign.
Goalkeeper Viktor Gyokeres has already arrived from IF Brommapojkarna in the only deal completed by the Seagulls in the January transfer window thus far.
"It's one we didn't expect," Hughton told Brighton's official website of Brown's injury. It's really disappointing news for all concerned, but obviously more for Izzy than anyone else.
"He's a young lad who has made a really good impression at the club and in the second half of the season he would have played more games.
"It's still very fresh for everyone, but we are grateful to Chelsea for the loan, and to Izzy for the impact he has made during the first half of the season."