Clermont had swept all before them in the European Challenge Cup this season to top Pool 1 with an unbeaten and maximum points record – mirrored by home domestic form that has seen them sit at the summit of the Top14.
However, they did not have it all their own way in this entertaining Round 4 encounter as Dragons twice closed in and pushed late on for a try bonus point.
The French giants eventually emerged with the bonus point win with two late tries putting a gloss on the score line.
Dragons, though, can take plenty of heart from the performance as attention now switches to the festive calendar of Welsh derby games that starts with an away trip to Cardiff Blues on Friday evening.
Dragons - with Forwards Coach Ceri Jones in charge - made seven changes from the side that lost out to Northampton Saints the previous week.
Five Wales internationals were back involved and prop Aaron Jarvis recalled to face his former club.
scoring his fourth European try of this campaign – he has now scored in all three appearances.
Clermont’s third try was awarded to Australian wing Peter Bentham, after consultation with the TMO, and flanker
However, Dragons were to strike back on the stroke of half-time with Wales international Wainwright capping a superb opening half for the back row with his score cutting the lead to 28-17.
Clermont looked to ease clear with back row and captain Fritz Lee scoring try number five.
But a superb solo score from scrum half Williams, moments after coming off the bench, had Dragons again sensing they could mount a famous fight-back.
Ultimately the French hosts pulled clear with further scores from Naqalevu and replacement scrum half
05m Cancoriet t Laidlaw 7-0
13m Lewis p 7-3
19m Naqalevu t Laidlaw c 14-3
22m Dee t Lewis c 14-10
28m Bentham t Laidlaw c 21-10
33m Concoriet t Laidlaw c 28-10
70m Naqalevu t Laidlaw c 42-24
77m Cassang t Laidlaw c 49-24
Referee: Tom Foley (Eng)