Macrobenthos recovery after hypoxia-induced mass mortality was assessed in an estuarine tidal mudflat during 3 years. During the first 2 years, a Pearson–Rosenberg type of community recovery took place along with the improving bottom water oxygen conditions. After 3 months, spionid polychaetes became superabundant (i.e. opportunistic peak), followed rapidly by a steep decline (i.e. ecotone point). Subsequently, a moderate increase in species richness and a steep increase in biomass, related to the growth of long-lived species occurred (i.e. transition region). Afterwards, however, the recovering community diverged again from the ambient, undisturbed, sediments due to enhanced recruitment success of long-lived species presumably resulting from the lowered interference from bioturbation during early recovery stages in the disturbed plots. Hence, despite early community recovery may be more or less deterministic, lagged divergent community reassembling may occur at the longer-term, thereby contributing to benthos patchiness in areas which are frequently subjected to disturbances.