Verstappen and Ricciardo had carved their way to the top after an inspired gamble by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to haul both of his drivers in for fresh tyres after Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly tangled and the safety auto was sent out.
Whilst that was happening Ricciardo, who also managed to set the fastest lap of the race, was on the hunt, and he easily took Sebastian Vettel, as the Ferrari struggled to cope with the pace of the Red Bull.
How did Ricciardo do it?
While Ferrari and Mercedes left their drivers out, both Red Bull racers stopped for fresh tyres, giving them extra pace in the closing laps.
A week after claiming an incredible fourth place for Toro Rosso-Honda, Pierre Gasly didn't have such fun in Shanghai - colliding with team-mate Brendon Hartley mid-race.
The second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after a hard race, with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettelonly eighth after a mid-race collision with Max Verstappen's Red Bull.
Red Bull's pitwall and tacticians are levels above any other team on the grid and this was highlighted in the late call to pit when the safety vehicle was deployed on lap 31. Lewis Hamilton dropped back to fifth, as the first portion of the race passed without much incident.
The moves on Hamilton and Bottas were made in his trademark style - making a hugely committed dive down the inside from a long way back, but always in total control on the edge of adhesion.
"I don't seem to win boring races", said Ricciardo on the podium - and he's right. "They're all pretty fun", said an elated Ricciardo, who filled one of his shoes with champagne on the podium and chugged it in what has become a signature "shoey" victory celebration. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +20,4366.
"It was completely Max's fault", said Niki Lauda, Mercedes' non-executive chairman and three-time world champion.
In Mercedes' defence, Ferrari also chose not to pit Raikkonen, but both teams suffered as a result.
He held second on lap 21 when benefiting from Vettel's slow pitstop, and seized the lead briefly on lap 26 when overtaking Kimi Raikkonen.
"Not only for the pit stops and strategy today but for getting me out in Qualifying yesterday which enabled me to get in the fight for victory, they should be very, very proud".
And after an investigation from the FAI, the Rouen native received a 10-second penalty for causing the collision in the hairpin turn.
"I feel like every win I've had it's been a similar circumstance". It was insane, a lot of fun.
"Twenty-four hours ago I thought we might be starting at the back of the grid".
Lewis Hamilton who finished fourth said: "I was in no man's land today".
"We have been underperforming". We have lost performance since Melbourne and maybe even more so this weekend.
"I saw Valtteri defend, I'd kind of committed from Turn 3 that I was gonna try". He misjudged it and compromised both of our results.
But the race turned due to a mid-race safety auto.
"Sometimes you've just got to lick the stamp and send it", he added of the lunge on Hamilton for third place.
Vettel and teammate Raikkonen grabbed a lockout for Ferrari on the front row to put the pressure on Mercedes. We were in trouble then really and it is disappointing. "That is racing. These things happen".
Take a look through the gallery above to see the full classification from the Chinese Grand Prix.
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