She became friendly with local farmer Jack Sugden but when she took a pass on him he rejected her advances because he had lost his wife Pat Sugden a year and a half earlier and had to look after his and Pat's two-year-old son Robert Sugden. But in December 1988 they got together and Sarah treated Robert like her own. However, Jack and Pat's 24-year-old son Jackie Merrick didn't like Sarah and tried to get Robert away from her any time he could. But eventually Sarah's best friend and Jackie's wife Kathy got the two to be friends. But tragedy struck when Jackie was killed several months later.
During 1989 Jack left for Italy to see old flame Marian Wilks leaving Sarah unaware of where they stood. Jack returned in November who a nosey Amos Brearly made sure Sarah was aware of. Jack declared his relationship with Marion was over and it was her he wanted. In 1990 Sarah agreed to move in with Jack in the farm but kept the connecting door nailed shut to stop Jack's mother Annie Sugden's habit of wandering in declaring she was used to living alone. Sarah at first refused to help out on the farm but later agreed when the Sugdens found themselves shorthanded. The mobile library closed in June 1990 so Jack got her a job as barmaid in the woolpack working for Amos and Henry Wilks who were impressed with her work ethic.
When mad man Jim Latimer was released from jail for the murder of Jack's cousin Sharon Crossthwaite, he swore revenge on Jack who was a witness at his trial in 1973 for murder. He took Sarah hostage in an abandoned warehouse were he said he'd keep her till Jack gave him £20,000. But Sarah knocked Latimer out with a brick and escaped unharmed. Latimer, meanwhile, was gunned down by police.
In January 1994 Jack proposed to Sarah. By then they had discovered Sarah was pregnant with Jack's baby and in March 1994 Sarah gave birth to Victoria Sugden. In May 1994 Jack and Sarah married but weeks after the wedding, Victoria stopped breathing and a hole in her heart was found. She nearly died but a part of Sarah's heart was taken to save Victoria's life.
In 1996 Robert brought a friend home called Andy Hopwood who was from the children's home after his mum and gran had died and his father Billy Hopwood was in jail. Jack and Sarah decided to adopt him and he became a Sugden. Billy escaped from prison at Christmas 1998 and tried to rob the post office accidentally killing Vic Windsor, Andy confessed to Jack about where Billy was hiding and he was taken away by the police while Vic's hysterical widow Viv shouted abuse at Andy for hiding his father. Sarah had never got on with Viv and the two often exchanged insults towards each other.
Indeed, Scott Windsor always disliked Sarah, but this was generally unrelated to the animosity between his mother and Sarah. Eric Pollard also held a particular dislike for Sarah, as was evident over Kathy and the Graham Clark incident.
In 1997, The Sugdens were evicted from the farm by Frank Tate to make access for a query but moved into a new farm. Shortly after Jack started an affair with Sarah's friend Rachel Tate and when Sarah found out she threw Jack out and tried to kill Rachel by pushing her in the canal. But a year later Jack and Sarah got back together.
In 1999 Jack and Sarah's marriage started to turn sour and then Jack's ex mistress Rachel was killed and he still had feeling's for her but Sarah didn't care. Sarah was determined not to end up a traditional farmers wife like Annie and went away for a few weeks hoping for change when she returned. Upon her return she was furious to discover the changes Jack had made to the farm including forbidding Andy and Robert from going to school so they could help out on the farm tension escalated when she got a job at Kathy's diner to support the family financially. At Christmas Sarah went against Jack's wishes and brought Robert and Andy the video games they wanted despite the family being in financial ruin causing further tension between her and Jack. Despite vowing to make their marriage work in the new millennium Jack sold Sarah's car without her consent to Rev Ashley Thomas and confided in Sarah's friend Kathy about his marriage problems infuriating Sarah. Sarah supported Kathy when she was nearly killed by Graham Clark. Like most of Emmerdale's residents, Sarah always found herself vaguely annoyed by Eric Pollard but got on with him in general. However, when Eric called Graham a murderer and no one believed him, Sarah was the particular target of his anger and he verbally attacked her in front of a busy Kathy's Diner. In the early months of 2000, the cracks in Jack and Sarah's marriage became even more evident. Even Sarah and Victoria nearly being killed in the bus crash wasn't enough to save their marriage. Sarah then had an affair with Jack's friend and lodger Richie Carter and she and Jack split up when the truth came out in May 2000. Jack refused Sarah access to the children and a nasty custody battle followed. Andy resented Sarah for what she did to Jack but Robert remained loyal to Sarah and even turned to her about changing his GCSE options when Jack was disinterested about it.
In October 2000 Sarah got custody of Victoria but a week later Jack attacked Sarah in the Woolpack and threatened to kill her and Richie, to the horror of Bernice Blackstock, Terry Woods and half of the entire village. This was the last straw for Sarah and she decided to dump Richie and try and get Jack back to make things work for the children's sake. Leaving Victoria with Angie Reynolds, she walked over to Emmerdale Farm. Richie drove beside her and persuaded her to talk, so Sarah suggested they talk in the barn. Hearing someone enter the barn and thinking it was Jack, they climbed up a ladder and hid behind a haybale. It turned out to be Sarah's adopted son Andy Sugden setting fire to the barn in a bid to win compensation from the insurance company in hope of solving Jack's financial problems. Richie managed to climb down the ladder, avoiding the soaring flames, but Sarah was too scared to move. A blast threw Richie off his feet but the ladder up to the haybales fell down, sealing Sarah's fate. After a lot of persuasion, Richie was struggling to breathe due to the smoke, so escaped without Sarah. Meanwhile Jack had heard the disturbance outside and ran out, only to see his barn on fire and Richie choking on the ground outside. What we last see of Sarah is her screaming for one last time: "Jaaack!" He tried to get Sarah out but stumbled out, gasping for oxygen, just seconds before the barn blew up.