Lewis Hamilton finally broke his duck at Interlagos with a lights-to-flag victory in a heavily disrupted Brazilian Grand Prix, but Nico Rosberg took second place to remain the hot favourite for the world championship.
The race started behind the safety car, following a ten-minute delay amidst the torrential rain, after Romain Grosjean lost control of his Haas and crashed on his reconnaissance lap.
Hamilton maintained his lead when the race finally got under way, but it was Max Verstappen on the charge as he got past Kimi Raikkonen and began to put pressure on Rosberg.
The conditions showed no signs of improving, however, as Sebastian Vettel tumbled down the order following a spin on the treacherous climb to the start/finish straight before Marcus Ericsson crashed at the same long, sweeping corner to bring out the safety car once again.
As soon as the race resumed, Kimi Raikkonen dramatically lost control of his Ferrari on the pit straight and slammed into the wall, with the onrushing drivers narrowly avoiding contact.
That accident triggered the race's first red flag, and there was yet another stoppage shortly after the safety car had led the pack back onto the circuit, with the furious crowd booing in protest.
When the race finally resumed, Verstappen brilliantly passed Rosberg around the outside of turn three to grab second place, just about managing to hold station after a half-spin on the pit straight.
Both Verstappen and team-mate Ricciardo bolted on the intermediates in a bid to propel themselves into contention, but were forced to revert to the full wets as the rain intensified following yet another safety car period, this time caused by a heartbreaking accident for home favourite Felipe Massa.
The closing stages of the race were breathless, with Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen all on the charge, but the Dutchman stole the headlines with a phenomenal fightback, slicing his way through the field to snatch third with one of the performances of the season.
Rosberg, who himself narrowly avoided an accident in the final sector, now leads by 12 points heading into the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, meaning he only needs to finish on the podium to clinch his maiden F1 title.
Verstappen denied Sergio Perez his third podium of the season with a superb late move around the outside at the penultimate corner, but the Mexican's fourth place represented a potentially decisive result for Force India in their Constructors' Championship battle with Williams, who failed to score.
Vettel managed to take fifth place, while Carlos Sainz finished sixth, equalling his career-best result, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, in podium contention prior to a puncture which forced him into an additional pit-stop.
Ricciardo was forced to settle for eighth, while Felipe Nasr crucially promoted Sauber above Manor and off the foot of the championship with the team's first points finish of the season in ninth.
Fernando Alonso took the final points place for McLaren, with Valtteri Bottas 11th and Force India-bound Esteban Ocon 12th, slipping out of the top ten in the dying stages.
Daniil Kvyat could not benefit from the carnage, managing only P13 ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Pascal Wehrlein and Jenson Button, whose woeful weekend ended in excruciating fashion as the last classified finisher.
Six drivers failed to make the chequered flag: Esteban Gutierrez, visibly angry after his retirement, Felipe Massa, greeted with a tear-inducing guard of honour in the pit-lane following his crash, Jolyon Palmer, sidelined by damage suffered in a collision with Kvyat, and the aforementioned trio of Raikkonen, Ericsson and Grosjean.
The title will be decided at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend.