The reigning Tour de France champion jumped away from a hard pace set by teammates up the final climb, duelling with Yates right up to the finish of Stage 3 of the UAE Tour.
“I’m super proud and really happy with the win," said Pogačar. "It was a good feeling. And, by taking the victory, I gained some seconds in the GC. We are one of the best teams in the world right now and this race is a big goal for us.
"It’s also our first WorldTour race in the calendar, so it’s kind of a hard race to start the season with. But it’s one of our objectives this year and we're doing our best. "
Pogačar had to wait for the final push to the line to beat Yates, leading through the final corner after the pair had dropped Sepp Kuss, who then hung back to help Australian teammate Chris Harper, who maintained his spot fourth overall with his ninth place on Jebel Hafeet.
"I knew that Adam would be strong," said Pogačar, "but I was trying to suffer on his wheel, behind him because I knew I had to hold a big power output for a long time. He attacked a few times and I defended. So I’m super happy with my performance.
"The gap is now bigger in the GC, but it’s still not finished, anything can happen. We need to be prepared, we need to stay focused, and we need to go into the next few stages with confidence."
Pogačar now holds a 43-second lead over Yates, with João Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in third, a minute and three seconds down on the 2020 Tour de France winner.
Harper is 40 seconds further behind, but he'll have to fend off Neilson Powless (EF Education-Nippo) who is just two seconds adrift of the Australian's fourth overall.
The UAE Tour continues tonight with a flat stage, though a second big general classification test will see the climbers tackle the Jebel Jais, a 21.5-kilometre monster climb at 5.4 per cent average gradient the day after.