The big Dane, who had lost nine of his previous 10 clashes to the Malaysian, saw off the veteran in a one hour, 12 minute epic, coming from behind to win 14-21, 21-14, 21-19.
It meant Axelsen was the second qualifier from Group B and he now faces either Tian Houwei or Jan Jorgensen on Saturday for a place in the season-ending final at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
Axelsen held his nerve in the deciding set, with Lei conceding the match with a fault on serve – a gift the 22-year-old described as an “early Christmas present”.
Incidentally, it was the second time in a row the 6’4 powerhouse had got the better of four-time end-of-season champion Wei in Dubai.
“I’m very, very happy. He’s a player I looked up to as a little child and the first time I played against him in 2012, I was like: ‘Woah, how do I get to that level’.
“I’ve lost nine times to him but you fall and stand up again and I’m going to stand up again every time I fall during my career. It’s a privilege to play these matches so I’m going to enjoy every moment of it and if you are too hard on yourself every time you lose then you will never accomplish anything. I just keep going and believe good things will await in the future.
“I didn’t really feel that I played as well as I can and I’m not at the best moment in my career but the victory was the main thing so I’m really happy about that,” Axelsen, who lost to Japan’s Kento Momota in last year’s Superseries final on UAE soil, added.
The world number four, who is also fluent in Mandarin and won bronze at Rio 2016, gifted the crowd his racquet after victory in what was his way of paying tribute to a packed Dubai house.
“It’s a real pleasure to play in front of a good crowd even though most of them were cheering for my opponent. I’m still enjoying it and that’s how every match and tournament should be because all the players enjoy playing in front of a good crowd.”