In a tight race decided only on the final curve, South Korea's Shim Suk-hee surged across the finish line, her fist pumping and a huge smile on her face.
She and team mates Kim Alang, Park Seung-hi and Cho Ha-ri jumped up onto the podium holding hands to take a bow.
"Even though I did not take part in the Vancouver Olympics ... when I crossed the line I thought of that moment four years ago when my country was disqualified," Shim told reporters.
After South Korea were disqualified in Vancouver, the Chinese team were awarded gold.
"I was happy because this meant a lot to the whole team," added Shim.
In a twist of fate, the Chinese team of Fan Kexin, Li Jianrou, Liu Qiuhong and Zhou Yang were second across the line on Tuesday, only to be disqualified.
A split-second of disbelief was followed by joy for Canada's Marie-Eve Drolet, Jessica Hewitt, Valerie Maltais and Marianne St-Gelais as they watched the team's third place turn to second on the scoreboard.
The Canadians, who also won silver in Vancouver, have held a spot on the podium in the women's relay at every Olympics since the event was introduced in 1992.
Despite a tumble by Arianna Fontana that left Italy trailing with 13 laps to go, the team moved up to take home bronze following China's disqualification.
"When I crashed I was at peace as it's not the first time this has happened, but we didn't give up," said Fontana, who won her third medal of the Sochi Games. She also won silver in the 500m and bronze in the 1,500m.
"We kept going and in the end when we saw China got DQed (disqualified) we were really excited," she said.
The Chinese team, who were favourites despite losing four-time Olympic gold medallist Wang Meng to injury ahead of the Games, were left shaking their heads in disappointment.
South Korea were leading in the opening laps before China moved from the back of the pack to hit the front with 16 laps to go.
The two teams swapped the lead again, China hitting the front with three laps to go, but Korea's Shim navigated a risky winning pass on the last leg of the 27 lap race.