At the nadir of his 17 months of agony, all that sustained Jack Wilshere was the prospect of returning home from rehab sessions to see his baby son, Archie.
"I've got my son now and I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for him," Arsenal's restored midfielder reflected after he purged the desperation over his nightmarish ankle injury with a near-consummate 67-minute display.
"He helped me through it massively."
Archie was born on September 29, 2011, in the midst of his father's exile, as Wilshere and partner Lauren celebrated a moment of grace in a tormented period.
For 542 days, Wilshere also drove himself through visualising how it would feel to start another first-team game for Arsenal.
For a shade over an hour at the Emirates, he discovered the answer, effortlessly resuming his role as the fulcrum of his team's attacking play, before being acclaimed by the supporters like a long-missed prodigal.
A pass success rate of 44 from 47 was sufficient to convince the disciples in red and white that Jack was indeed back.
"It felt amazing," Wilshere admitted. "All the hard work and long days at the training ground have paid off.
"Even before the game, when I was meeting Arsenal fans, they were positive. All I can do now is prove to them that I can get back to the level I was at before, to show them what I can do."
Arsenal will resist rushing him, though. Arsene Wenger confirmed after this victory, sealed by Mikel Arteta's scrambled 84th-minute winner, that Wilshere would play no part in tomorrow night's League Cup match at Reading.
The Frenchman also sounded a clear warning to England manager Roy Hodgson not to risk the youngster for the friendly with Sweden in Stockholm next month.
It is easy to forget that the last Arsenal team of which Wilshere formed a regular part included Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Alex Song. All four have since departed, amid varying degrees of acrimony, but in the eyes of many disenchanted fans, Wilshere's return to the fold has kindled renewed hope.
How Mark Hughes must covet such a talent to transform the fortunes of QPR.
Granted, goalkeeper Julio Cesar had conspired to thwart Arsenal with a series of agile saves, until Arteta pounced with the late strike that left the league's bottom side still seeking a first win of the season.
That referee Anthony Taylor failed to notice the Spaniard was offside hardly sweetened the feeling for Hughes, who saw Stephane Mbia sent off for kicking out at Thomas Vermaelen. (© Daily Telegraph, London)