The Briton's two-stop strategy, married to a third-row starting berth, meant he was a permanent fixture at the front of the race, even leading for three laps.
He looked well-placed for at least a podium heading into the final sequence of pitstops, but he lost second to the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen and then came under increasing pressure from the Finn's team-mate Romain Grosjean. The latter was able to find a way through six laps from the end.
Despite losing out on a breakthrough grand prix rostrum, di Resta emphasised the positives he and Force India were able to take from the race.
"Overall we can be positive. It does [match my best result] and it's probably the strongest race I've had," di Resta said.
"I ran very strong in race and was strong throughout the weekend. I led for quite a while. We can be on the podium one day.
"[The podium fight] was very close. We were always going to be disadvantaged with our strategy and unfortunately I think Grosjean not qualifying, and having two new sets of medium tyres, [was] always going to be strong.
"Had he got caught up behind [Mark] Webber I think I'd have been OK.
"[Fourth] is a big credit to all the boys. We didn't get the rewards in Malaysia but to come away with one really good results before the European season is very good - and we've got some goodies coming [for Spain]."