The Bantams entered the televised contest with just a solitary defeat in their last ten outings.
In stark contrast Scunthorpe, who led the division until the turn of the year, had picked up maximum points just once in their last 11.
But those statistics were flipped on their head after barely two minutes.
Ivan Toney steered the ball home at the back-post following a corner that City simply failed to deal with.
City shook off the early blow and levelled proceedings shortly after when Kevin Toner planted a free header beyond Luke Daniels on 14 minutes.
Toner, one of three changes made by Stuart McCall, nodded home from Billy Clarke’s free-kick for his maiden senior goal.
Remarkably the visitors then propelled themselves into the lead just two minutes later through Alex Jones.
The winger cut inside and picked out the bottom-left corner of the goal with pinpoint precision for his fourth goal in a City shirt.
But then, in what was a carbon copy of the first half, Scunthorpe came firing out of the blocks for the restart and were duly level on 47 minutes.
Again Toney scored, this time a more spectacular goal after latching on to a long pass inside the box and finishing smartly past Doyle with expert precision with his back to goal.
Bradford were denied a third after a speculative save from Daniels just before the hour mark, keeping out Timothee Dieng’s header.
That save proved crucial as Scunthorpe retook the lead on 83 minutes.
Matt Crooks, formerly of Huddersfield Town, powered a header into the goal from a corner to give United the advantage once more.
City threw everything at the hosts late on but even six minutes of stoppage time wasn’t enough as the hosts held out to move above Bradford and into fourth place.
Scunthorpe: Daniels, Clarke, Wallace, Goode (Mirfin 72), Adelakun (Wiseman 85), Townsend, Dawson, Crooks, Morris, Toney (Davies 88), Madden. Unused substitutes: Anyon, Bishop, Hopper, Ness
Bradford: Doyle, Meredith, Toner, McArdle, Vincelot, McMahon, Dieng, Marshall, Jones (Hiwula 80), Clarke (Devine 79), Wyke. Unused substitutes: Sattelmaier, Darby, Penney, Pybus, Hanson
Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).