Cheruiyot, the reigning world 5000m champion, finished the 25-lap race in 30min 48.98sec ahead of compatriots Sally Kipyego (30:50.04) and 2009 champion Linet Masai (30:53.59).
It crowned a remarkable opening day at the worlds for Kenya’s female runners, their marathon team having earlier snagged all three medals on the streets of Daegu.
American Shalane Flanagan made the early running, the Olympic bronze medallist stringing out the pack over the opening nine laps.
But Masai took the lead with 16 laps remaining, team Kenya smoothly moving up the field to the front as Priscah Cherono and Cheruiyot followed.
The Ethiopian trio of Meseret Defar, Tigist Kiros and Meselech Melkamu kept on the heels of their east African rivals, the former having ambitiously announced that she had the 5000-10,000m double on her mind.
But then in what looked liked an orchestrated team move, Kipyego accelerated to take the lead with 11 laps to run and upped the pace immediately.
The prompt result was that the pack was cut to the four Kenyans, Melkamu, Defar, Flanagan and the Ethiopian-born Bahraini runner Shitaye Eshete.
The American and Eshete soon fell off the pace, leaving a battle royale over the final seven laps between the cream of Ethiopian and Kenyan distance runners.
But a shock was to come, the 27-year-old Defar, Olympic gold medallist in 2004 at 5000m and world champion over the same distance in 2007, also fell out of the running.
The four-time world indoor 3000m champion then slowed to a halt and walked off the track, hands on hips and head hanging low, with four laps remaining.
Cheruiyot took the lead as the bell rang for the final 400m, ahead of Kipyego and Masai in third.
It seemed as if she might have bolted too early, with Kipyego on her heels as they came around the final bend, but Cheruiyot held on for joyous scenes with her Kenyan teammates.
The victory also opens up the tempting prospect of a 5000-10,000m double for the 27-year-old, the shorter distance being her preferred race.