Korea Republic, the gold medallists in 1986, had wasted the best opportunities of the game, and they were made to pay when centre-forward Ahmed Al Abry slotted the ball past substitute goalkeeper Lee Bum-Young. Penalty specialist Lee had replaced starter Kim Seung-Gyu just moments earlier with Korea expecting the game to be decided by a shootout.
But it is the UAE, who have never appeared in an Asiad final, who go on to Thursday's gold medal decider against Japan, who came from a goal down to beat four-time champions Iran 2-1.
"In the last three or four minutes of the match there was a fight between players from both teams and I told them not to lose control, but some of them did," said Korea Republic coach Hong Myung-Bo. "I think the bad positioning from our players was the reason we conceded the goal."
UAE coach Mahdi Redha said his objective was to qualify for the Olympics in 2012. "At our first press conference here I said our goals at this Asian Games were to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers and try our best for a medal," said Redha. "Now here we are and I'm delighted with our team's performance."
Korea Republic had the best of the early chances and UAE goalkeeper Ali Housani needlessly put his side under pressure when he opted to punch rather than catch a teasing cross. But Hong Jeong-Ho was off target with his long-range response. Amer Al Hamadi then shot wide in 19th minute as the UAE looked to use their pace up front.
Hong Jeong-Ho should have broken the deadlock in the 37th minute, but despite being unmarked, he tamely headed straight into the arms of a grateful Al Hamadi. Monaco's Park Chu-Young then showed off his creativity with a smart pass into the path of the sprinting Yun Suk-Young who blasted the ball over the bar to leave the semi-final scoreless at the interval.
Housani again flapped at a cross in the 70th minute but he escaped when substitute Seo Jung-Jin missed the target. At the other end, Omar Al Amoudi sent a fierce, left-footed drive just over the top of Kim Seung-Gyu's goal as the tie drifted into extra time.