Tim Cahill's road to a possible place in Australia's FIFA World Cup squad started in earnest on Saturday (AEDT) as the 38-year-old returned to the Millwall first team, coming on as a late substitute in a 1-1 draw with EFL Championship high-flyer Cardiff City.
Cahill, who returned in the recent transfer window to the club where he cut his teeth as a young professional 20 years ago, didn't have much time to impress with barely five minutes remaining of the match when he made his bow, but he did show a brief glimpse of his potential, charging down an attempted clearance deep in the Cardiff half to regain possession for the Lions, but his team-mates were unable to capitalise on the opportunity having fought well to get back into the match after a disastrous start.
Cardiff was ahead inside the opening four minutes after a calamitous error by Mahlon Romeo allowed Bluebirds livewire Junior Hoilett to steal the ball and race away before blasting a sublime shot past goalkeeper Jordan Archer from outside the box.
However, that poor start provided Millwall — which gave a start to Cahill's fellow Australian James Meredith — with the motivation it needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and it soon began to create chances that would eventually lead to the equaliser.
Steve Morison hit the bar with an effort in the 23rd minute, and Lee Gregory went close soon after, but made no mistake with his second opportunity five minutes before the break.
Archer fired a goal-kick upfield, and Morison released Jed Wallace down the touchline before he in turn cut the ball back to Gregory, who blasted high into the Cardiff goal to level matters.
Romeo almost let Hoilett in with another poor piece of defending moments after the restart, but chances for Cardiff proved hard to find in a second period mostly dominated by the hosts.
Ben Marshall went close with the aid of a deflection in the 56th minute, and both Gregory and Wallace had presentable chances to win it.
But it was Cardiff that eventually found the back of the net again, Sol Bamba acrobatically finishing inside the box, but referee Keith Stroud had blown for a foul on Cardiff's Joe Bennett on the edge of the box, barely a second before the ball was in the goal.
City boss Neil Warnock was far from impressed, raging on the touchline in the knowledge that his side would have drawn level with second-placed Derby County had the goal been allowed to stand.
The resulting free-kick produced nothing, and the long-awaited introduction of Cahill — which came almost 20 minutes after The Den's faithful had sung his name loudly from the stands — proving to be the last highlight of a frantic affair.
The draw leaves Cardiff two points behind Derby and one adrift of third-placed Aston Villa, although the Welsh club knows it will still have a game in hand after this weekend's fixtures.