Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is facing a defensive crisis ahead of Saturday's Premier League game against Southampton as a dearth of fit central defenders leaves him sweating on the fitness of several key players.
The defender's last start came in January during which he left with an injury ending his season, but replaced compatriot Wesley Hoedt in the Southampton line-up.
The Potters were on top for much of the game and took a deserved lead through Mame Biram Diouf, but it looked like a missed Saido Berahino penalty would cost them after Mayo Yoshida equalised for the away side.
Only Swansea and Crystal Palace have scored less top-flight goals than Southampton this season, and the Saints have now failed to net in 10 of their last 14 league games stretching back to last season.
The former Manchester United striker headed Xherdan Shaqiri's corner kick past Fraser Forster.
The Englishman couldn't keep out Stoke's opener though, Diouf breaking the deadlock after 40 minutes.
What should have been a morale-boosting moment for Berahino only proved to further sap his confidence.
And it was the man in possession of that armband who levelled.
Yet another of the replacements, one familiar to Saints fans from his season with them over a decade ago, had the final say.
His first effort was blocked by Forster's leg, but from the ground he poked back towards goal and Crouch was on hand to sweep in from a couple of yards out to win it.