We investigated the influence of exogenously sourced ethylene (200 μL L-1 ethephon) in the protection of photosynthesis against 200 mg kg-1 soil each of nickel (Ni)- and zinc (Zn)-accrued stress in mustard (Brassica juncea L.). Plants grown with Ni or Zn but without ethephon exhibited increased activity of 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid synthase, and ethylene with increased oxidative stress measured as H2O2 content and lipid peroxidation compared with control plants. The oxidative stress in Ni-grown plants was higher than Zn-grown plants. Under metal stress, ethylene protected photosynthetic potential by efficient PS II activity and through increased activity of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase and photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (P-NUE). Application of 200 μL L-1 ethephon to Ni- or Zn-grown plants significantly alleviated toxicity and reduced the oxidative stress to a greater extent together with the improved net photosynthesis due to induced activity of ascorbate peroxidase and glutathione (GSH) reductase, resulting in increased production of reduced GSH. Ethylene formation resulting from ethephon application alleviated Ni and Zn stress by reducing oxidative stress caused by stress ethylene production and maintained increased GSH pool. The involvement of ethylene in reversal of photosynthetic inhibition by Ni and Zn stress was related to the changes in PS II activity, P-NUE, and antioxidant capacity was confirmed using ethylene action inhibitor, norbornadiene.