Starting from pole, Vettel was able to hold on to the lead of the race at the start for Ferrari, but quickly came under pressure from Bottas after the Mercedes driver was able to leapfrog Kimi Raikkonen on the first lap to take second.
It was a decision that would cost early leaders Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel their chance to win, with a spectacular charge from Ricciardo allowing him to take victory for Red Bull, bouncing back from a tough Saturday that saw him nearly start last on the grid.
Daniel Ricciardo yesterday made a string of thrilling overtaking moves to snatch a surprise Chinese Grand Prix victory after a safety auto strategy gamble by his Red Bull team paid off handsomely.
Before the start of the 15th edition of the Chinese Grand Prix, you could be forgiven for thinking the Red Bulls weren't in Shanghai for a win, let alone a podium finish.
In came Max Verstappen and Ricciardo, the only front-runners to do so.More news: Bon Jovi, Nina Simone enter Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
As the safety auto period ended on lap 36, Bottas was able to avoid any attacks from Vettel but all eyes were now on Verstappen in fourth place.
"Holy Testicle Tuesday", the 28-year-old exclaimed if asked exactly what his reaction could have been had someone suggested that Red Bull would acquire a race earlier winners Mercedes this season.
Verstappen carried on, but picked up a ten-second penalty that dropped him to fifth.
"Sometimes you've just got to lick the stamp and send it", he said in classic Ricciardo fashion.
If anyone says to you that they accurately predicted the dominant Mercedes AMG F1 team being winless after the first three races of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, then call their bluff. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8,8943.
It was Bottas' win until Ricciardo - rightfully hailed as the master of late braking - stormed past the Finn in an inch flawless move on lap 46, in what will surely go down as one of the classic F1 drives.More news: Uganda confirms two athletes missing at Commonwealth Games in Australia
"It is disappointing. We gave it everything we had", said Hamilton's teammate Bottas. Verstappen was slapped with a 10-second time penalty.
"At the rate we were going through the field, and I could feel the tyres were holding on well, I was obviously fully set on the win". I didn't want to compromise my race.
In the constructors' stakes, Mercedes now have a one-point advantage over Ferrari, 85 to 84, with Red Bull moving into a clear third place on 55.
Perhaps the most remarkable of his four overtakes was a lunge on Lewis Hamilton into the hairpin, which saw Ricciardo fly down the inside from around 40m behind. It does get you down a lot.
"This is racing, these things happen".More news: Commonwealth Games: Indian women's hockey team misses out on bronze medal