The Black Cats full-back tumbled out of favour under Paolo Di Canio following the Italian's arrival as manager at the Stadium of Light.
The future looked bleak for the former Manchester United defender, with a move away from Wearside considered to be only a matter of time.
Fulham and Hull City, along with a host of Championship clubs, were reported to be keen on taking the Scotland international.
He was, however, laid low after picking up an injury in an U21 outing and was ruled out for 10 weeks.
By the time he was fit again, the transfer window had closed and Di Canio had been sacked after overseeing a disastrous start to the 2013/14 campaign.
Bardsley told the Sunderland Echo of his lucky break: "When I broke my foot in a daft challenge, I remember thinking at the time, 'Can this get any worse?'
"People at the club said to me it was the best thing that has happened to me at the football club because I could have been on my way out.
"That's a nice thing for people to say. It hurt though!"
Bardsley has been drafted back into the side by Gus Poyet and has helped the Black Cats to secure important victories over Newcastle United and Manchester City.
With Sunderland now three points from safety, he added: "We've got to build on what we did against Manchester City.
"That was a great win but there's still a long way for us to go and we've got to show the same commitment and desire that we showed in that game for the rest of the season now."