Els, the two-time defending champion, also won this event three straight years from 1994 to 1996.
The final match of the quarterfinals was completed Saturday morning with Miguel Angel Jimenez defeating his Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, 2 and 1. Langer had moved into the quarterfinals with a 1-up win in 37 holes over World No. 1 Vijay Singh.
'It reminded me of that old Bible story when little David beat Goliath,' said Langer of his match with Singh. 'That's how I felt. I was up most of the way, but missed a few short putts. He came back very strongly at the end of the second 18 and it was very tight all the way.'
The other two matches were completed. The first saw Padraig Harrington fight off a hand injury incurred during the match to beat Frenchman Thomas Levet, 1-up. Retief Goosen, who rolled to a record 12 and 11 win over Jeff Maggert in the first round, fell to Ryder Cupper Lee Westwood, 2 and 1.
Els, who picked up a 2 and 1 win over Scott Drummond in the first round, quickly grabbed a 2-up lead on Cabrera. The South African stretched his lead to 3-up when he rolled in a birdie at No. 6 on the West Course at the Wentworth Club.
Cabrera drained his first birdie at the par-4 eighth to cut his deficit to 2-down. The duo halved the 12th with birdies, but Cabrera remained hot. He converted birdie attempts at the 13th and 14th to square the match.
Cabrera, a two-time winner on the European Tour, eagled the par-5 17th to take his first lead of the round. However, at the start of the second 18, Cabrera again bogeyed the first to square the match.
Els fought to wins on the 20th and 21st holes to go 2-up. Cabrera came right back with an eagle at the 22nd and when Els bogeyed the 24th hole, the match was again squared.
The pair traded birdies at the 27th and 28th, before Els birdied the following hole to take a 1-up lead. Cabrera slipped to 2-down when he bogeyed the 31st.
Cabrera fought back to even the match as he birdied the 32nd hole and Els faltered to a bogey at the 34th. Els, the world No. 2 player, came right back with a birdie at the 35th hole. The final hole was halved to birdies giving Els the 1-up win.
'It was a tough match today,' said Els. 'I didn't play all that good from tee- to-green this morning, but I got it a bit more together this afternoon. I hit a lot of good shots coming down the stretch and I didn't make my putts. I was up by quite a few this morning early, and then he came back. Went into lunch, I was 1-down and I had a really good start. Then I let him back in, I was just all over the place.'
Harrington and Levet fought back and forth early in their match. The Irishman won the first, but Levet birdied the next two holes to take a 1-up lead of his own. Harrington then ran off three consecutive birdies from the fourth to claim a 2-up cushion.
Levet later squared the match again with birdies at 11 and 12. However, things turned in Harrington's favor when he birdied five of the last six holes to take a 5-up lead into the afternoon 18.
Levet bogeyed the 19th to slip to 6-down but things turned around for the Frenchman when he eagled the 22nd. Levet birdied the following two holes and Harrington bogeyed the 25th as his lead fell to 2-up.
On the 27th, Harrington swung and hit his second shot from under a tree. On the follow-through, Harrington's hands and club slammed into the trunk of the tree he was under. He played on after receiving medical attention for a cut thumb and was given an ice pack to ease the pain in his hands and wrists.
Harrington, who beat Chris Riley 2 and 1 in the first round, managed to win the 31st as Levet bogeyed the hole to go 2-up with five holes to play. They halved the 32nd with birdies and Levet got it to 1-down when Harrington double bogeyed the 34th. The match went to the Irishman when they each birdied the last.
'I think after I got through 12 and 13, I realized that I wasn't capable of really swinging the golf club. I certainly wasn't capable of hitting a full shot,' Harrington said. 'So, I endeavored from there just to get my way home, whichever way I could, hitting a little more club each time.
'I think the only shot that I probably hit which put me close to pulling out was the second shot on 18. I wasn't even trying to hit greens actually. I was trying to hit it somewhere near where I could get up-and-down.'
Westwood, who handed Todd Hamilton a 4 and 3 defeat in round one, took control of his match with Goosen with three consecutive birdies from the 10th. Westwood drained another birdie at the 18th to head to the second 18 with a 3-up lead.
The Englishman stretched his lead to 5-up as he eagled the 22nd and birdied the next. Goosen got within 4-down with a birdie at the 28th and kept the match alive when he birdied the 33rd and Westwood bogeyed the next.
Goosen was 2-down with two holes to go, but Westwood sealed the match at the 35th as he equaled Goosen's birdie.
Jimenez, who played under Langer on the victorious European Ryder Cup squad, holed out for eagle at the par-4 seventh to take control of the match. The Spaniard, who beat Steve Flesch 3 and 2 in round one, birdied the 10th and 11th, then eagled the 12th to grab a 4-up lead. At that point, Jimenez was minus-9 through 12 holes.
Langer clawed back to within 2-down as Jimenez bogeyed 14 and Langer birdied the 16th. Jimenez birdied No. 17 to move 3-up. Langer dropped in a birdie at the 21st to get within 2-down. Jimenez moved back to 3-up with a birdie on the 23rd and the match stayed there as the duo halved the next five holes before action was halted for the night.