We analyse the two-dimensional, gravitationally-driven spreading of fluid through a porous medium overlying a horizontal impermeable boundary from which fluid can drain freely at one end. Under the assumption that none of the intruding fluid is retained within the pores in the trail of the current, the motion of the current is described by the dipole self-similar solution of the first kind derived by Barenblatt and Zel'dovich (1957). We show that small perturbations of arbitrary shape imposed on this solution decay in time, indicating that the self-similar solution is linearly stable. We use the connection between the perturbation eigenfunctions and symmetry transformations of the self-similar solution to demonstrate that variables can always be specified in terms of which the rate of decay of the perturbations is maximised. Unsaturated flow can be modelled by assuming that a constant fraction of the fluid is retained within the pores by capillary action in the trail of the current. It has been shown (Barenblatt and Zel'dovich, 1998; Ingerman and Shvets, 1999) that in this case, the motion of the current is described by a self-similar solution of the second kind characterised by an anomalous exponent. We derive leading-order analytic expressions for the anomalous exponent and the self-similar quantities valid for small values of the fraction of fluid retained using direct asymptotic analysis and by using a novel application of the method of multiple scales. The latter offers a number of advantages and permits the evolution of the current to be clearly connected with its initial conditions in a way not possible with conventional approaches. We demonstrate that the theoretical predictions provided by these expressions are in excellent agreement with results from the numerical integration of the governing equations.