A further two shots back are Britain's Lee Westwood (68) and Graeme McDowell (69), while world number one Tiger Woods was strangely out of sorts as he slipped to a one-over 73 to sit on 209 after three rounds.
The strong winds and overcast skies from Friday gave way to light breezes and pleasant sunshine in Dubai, with Els taking the initiative from overnight leader Woods.
|"I can't see Henrik and Tiger and the other guys not shooting low."|
"I knew at the start I probably needed two 64s to have half a chance," Els told reporters.
"As it turned out I shot a 65 today and I probably need another really low one tomorrow.
"I can't see Henrik and Tiger and the other guys not shooting low."
Els raced through the first nine holes in a flawless two-under 33, thanks to birdies at the third and fifth.
The player known as the 'Big Easy' then hit a spectacular approach shot with his five-wood at the long 10th and made sure of his putt for an eagle.
Shot of the day on the 10th
"That was the shot of the day for me," said the 38-year-old.
"I had 246 yards to the front of the green and I think the flag was 266 yards away and I hit it a couple of feet from the hole.
|"I've always loved this course... it is always in great shape."|
"Then I hit another good shot on 11 to about three feet for another birdie. Those two holes really got everything going for me."
Two more birdies followed at the 13th and 17th holes before Els had to fight for his par at the last, after his ball drifted into sandy rough to the left of the fairway.
However despite being cramped up against a tree, the South African executed a good recovery and walked off the green with a regulation five.
Els set the course record with an 11-under 61 on his way to victory on the Majlis Course in 1994 before adding two more title successes in 2002 and 2005.
"I've always loved this course... it is always in great shape," Els said.
"I feel like playing, feel like practising. I've got a lot of friends here so I feel comfortable."
Australia's Richard Green, winner in Dubai 11 years ago, was forced to withdraw before the start of the third round due to a bout of flu.