Stuttgart - 574 days is an eternity for any striker to wait for a goal, but when it's as important as Cacau's strike in VfB Stuttgart's 3-1 win over FC Schalke 04, it's well worth the wait.
The struck the Swabians' second against the Royal Blues - his first since September 2012 - to release the tension inside the Mercedes-Benz-Arena as the majority of the 60,449 fans hoped and prayed for a result which would ease the hosts’ relegation concerns.
"It was amazing to be given a start, and then to win it too," said Cacau, who doubled VfB's lead in the 54th minute of Sunday's all-important clash. "I went through all the emotions," he went on. "I thought about the difficult time I had with injuries and about my wife and family, who’ve supported me throughout."
Not only did Cacau's strike help the club he has represented for over a decade move four points clear of the relegation play-off spot, it was an historic 80th goal in a Stuttgart shirt for the 33-year-old, taking him one ahead of Jürgen Klinsmann into fourth on the club's all-time top scorers list, which is led by Karl Allgöwer (129).
No rest for the wicked
Personal joy aside, it was a huge victory for everyone connected with the club on a weekend when all their closest relegation rivals lost. "I have to praise my team’s battling spirit," said coach Huub Stevens. "We've now got three finals left." They are three matches that, according to two-goal hero , represent a huge challenge for the Swabians in a phase where their mental strength is being tested to the limit. "The toughest part of a relegation battle is what it does to you psychologically," the Austrian explained. "The tension before this game was huge."
The anxiety was partly due to Stuttgart being last up on Matchday 31 and, consequently, aware of how the teams around them had fared over the course of the weekend. "We knew Hamburg, Nürnberg and Braunschweig had all lost and that put us under pressure, but it was a good kind of pressure," said goalkeeper . "If we carry on playing like we did today, I'm confident we'll stay up."
Boost from the fans
With the kind of support shown on Sunday by the biggest crowd of the season at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, part one of mission survival has already been negotiated. "I want to say a massive 'thank you' to the fans," added Ulreich. "The way they support us is incredible, not just in this game, but for months now. It gave me goosebumps." VfB's faithful will have the chance to cheer their heroes on for one last time this season against VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 33, a game that is sandwiched between two daunting away trips .
A sizeable travelling army of followers can be expected for both trips, though, and that’s something returning midfielder is counting on to help drag the proud club from Baden-Württemberg over the line. "The support they've given us has been sensational for weeks," said the 24-year-old, before reminding everyone that VfB are not yet out of the woods. "There's still a long way to go and we've definitely not reached our goal yet.”
Sven Ulreich made it into this week's Top 5 Saves on the the official Bundesliga YouTube channel. Find out who else made the list by clicking on the video below: