The Dutchman animated the race in the closing 10 kilometres and did all he could to distance race leader Dylan Teuns, but the BMC man hung on to finish just behind Poels in the uphill sprint to the line.
The win moved Poels up to third overall, an agonising three seconds back on Teuns. Rafal Majka (Bora Hansgrohe) finished third on the stage to seal second overall.
It was a gruelling final stage to cap an exciting week of racing in Poland. The day was run across two mountainous laps around Bukowina Tatrzanska and it was full gas from the gun.
Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) set the tone, attacking early on, and Diego Rosa followed the world champion’s move to infiltrate the day’s break.
With one of the 66km laps complete the break started to splinter, before Sagan rode away with 40km to go. Rosa set off in pursuit, while behind the peloton was slimming down drastically.
Poels had Michal Golas and Lukasz Wisniowski for company, but then the pace shot up on one of the numerous late climbs as Poels led from the front in an attempt to distance Teuns. It almost worked, but the yellow jersey worked his way back on the subsequent descent.
Ahead of the final climb Poels bridged to Rosa and the Italian buried himself on the early slopes, before pulling off as the GC battle began in earnest. Majka launched several attacks but none of them were decisive, and it came down to a select bunch sprint.
Poels led from the front and nobody could come round the Dutchman on the rise to the line, but Teuns dug in to finish fifth and keep the jersey by the slimmest of margins.
Rosa’s fine work out front meant he sealed the King of the Mountains jersey to cap a fine week for the team in Poland.