Mr Dunning, 55, from Norton, Stockton, said being made redundant from his job as an English lecturer left him feeling “humiliated.”
“I really needed a new focus,” he said, “and I’d been tinkering with the idea of going on Mastermind for a while. It gave me something to aim for.
“I was badly affected. I felt so humiliated. I had this bee in my bonnet about proving I wasn’t stupid.”
Mr Dunning, a father-of-three, who has been with his partner, Jean Dove, a nurse, for 30 years, worked at ICI after leaving school with one CSE and a solitary O Level. He went on to work as a labourer in the building trade.
But aged 30 he decided to take an access course which eventually led to him studying English Literature at Teesside University and then becoming a lecturer at Stockton Riverside College.
After losing his job he filled in a BBC on-line form and was asked 15 questions on the phone by a researcher.
He did well enough to be put before a panel in a studio of TV production assistants in Newcastle and, after answering 20 questions, was eventually selected for the TV show, one of less than 100 chosen from between 2,000 and 3,000 hopefuls.
Mr Dunning’s first four choices for a specialist subject were rejected for his heat in the BBC’s Salford studios, but eventually he answered questions on the Blackadder TV show.
In the semi-final he chose the Life and Music of John Lennon and in the final the Life and Poetry of Philip Larkin.
“In the final you get to do a film on your subject. Some of the others got to go to places like New York and Rome … I got Hull," he smiled.
“It was still an enjoyable day about Larkin’s life there.”
Mr Dunning, a keen Middlesbrough fan who was up against another Teesside finalist, third-placed Michael McPartland of Acklam, Middlesbrough, said the walk to the famous black chair was “unbelievably nerve-wracking.”
So what was it like to win the Mastermind glass bowl?
“I thought I’d be euphoric, punching the air, but it was nothing like that. I just felt relieved it was all over. When we got home I went for a pint at the Malleable Social Club where I do a quiz on a Monday night.
“What’s been great has been all the people here at home saying, ‘well done, we’re proud of you.’ This area gets battered in the national media. I just hope I’ve helped put a more positive image of Stockton over.”
Mr Dunning is establishing a private tuition service and specialises in teaching GCSE level English Literature and Language to people of all ages. He can be contacted on 01642-658905 or 07944-195296.
Questions Clive Dunning got right included:
Q: Which band of the 1960s had a group of fans called the Deadheads?
A: The Grateful Dead.
Q: Who was the first European footballer of the year?
A: Stanley Matthews (in 1956).
Q: Which journalist did John Lennon say ‘The Beatles are bigger than God?' to.
A: Maureen Cleave (The Standard).
Q: Which character was Blackadder engaged to in the first series of the hit TV show?
A: Maria Escalosa, played by Miriam Margoyles. Mr Dunning actually had to correct quiz master John Humphries who got it wrong.
And two questions he got wrong:
Q: Where did the poet Philip Larkin keep a cottage in Northumberland?
A: Hayden Bridge.
Q: What is DRS stand for in cricket?
A: Decision Review System.