CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Dan Stultz's fourth field goal of the game, a 34-yarder as time expired, lifted No. 14 Ohio State to a 24-21 triumph over Big Ten Conference rival Illinois.
Ohio State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) moved into a tie with Purdue, Michigan and Northwestern atop the conference. But Purdue has the inside edge for the championship by virtue of its win over the Buckeyes on October 28.
Steve Bellisari had a big game for Ohio State, completing 23-of-38 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns. But he hurt himself with three interceptions.
"I'm a pretty happy guy right now," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "We didn't play our best today. The offensive line stepped up today and Bellisari grew up out there."
Ohio State has its traditional battle with Michigan next week.
"Next week is important for us," Cooper added. "Now we are playing for a share of the Big Ten championship."
Illinois (5-5, 2-5) took a 21-18 lead 43 seconds into the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown toss from redshirt freshman backup Dustin Ward to fullback Jameel Cook.
But Stultz converted a 17-yarder midway through the quarter and capped a 13-play, 72-yard drive with his game-winner. Stultz's 12 points gave him 333 in his career, 15 shy of fullback Pete Johnson's school record.
"This is a disappointing loss," Illinois coach Ron Turner said. "It's unfortunate that anyone had to lose a game like this. We did everything we could to win the game."
Illinois took a 7-0 lead 95 seconds into contest when Rocky Harvey broke free for a 29-yard touchdown run. But Stultz kicked a 19-yard field goal midway through the quarter and got Ohio State within a point 18 seconds into the second period.
Antoineo Harris pushed Illinois' lead to 14-6 with 12:44 left in the half by punctuating a six-play, 65-yard drive with a 25-yard scoring scamper.
Ohio State drew within 14-12 in the final minute of the half as Bellisari ran the two-minute drill to perfection. He moved the team 80 yards in 10 plays and capped the drive by finding tight end Darnell Sanders with a one-yard scoring pass. The Buckeyes went for two but Bellisari's pass was incomplete and the Fighting Illini took a lead into halftime.
Bellisari engineered another long drive midway through the third quarter and again found Sanders, this time with a seven-yard touchdown toss. But again Ohio State went for two and this time Bellisari had his pass intercepted.
Backup running back Jonathan Wells led Ohio State with 131 yards on 17 carries and added five receptions for 50 yards.
Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner completed 13-of-26 passes for 166 yards but left after getting knocked woozy at the start of the fourth quarter.
"We don't know what his status is," Turner added. "I know he was unconscious, at least for a little while, but by the time I got out there he was awake. He's at the hospital getting tests right now. He was taken to the emergency room so we'll see what happens."
Harris finished with 93 yards on 17 carries while linebacker Jerry Schumacher had a huge effort defensively for the Fighting Illini, recording 17 tackles.
The Buckeyes, who enjoyed a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession in the second half, avenged a stunning home loss to the Illini last season and lead the all-time series, 57-27-4.
"There was a substantial disparity in the time of possession," Turner added. "They just wore us down. They are a good, good football team."
Illinois needs a win in its final game against Northwestern to become eligible for a bowl.