A new methodology of guided-wave-based nondestructive testing (NDT) is developed to detect crack damage in a thin metal structure without using prior baseline data or a predetermined decision boundary. In conventional guided-wave-based techniques, damage is often identified by comparing the 'current' data obtained from a potentially damaged condition of a structure with the 'past' baseline data collected at the pristine condition of the structure. However, it has been reported that this type of pattern comparison with the baseline data can lead to increased false alarms due to its susceptibility to varying operational and environmental conditions of the structure. To develop a more robust damage diagnosis technique, a new concept of NDT is conceived so that cracks can be detected even when the system being monitored is subjected to changing operational and environmental conditions. The proposed NDT technique utilizes the polarization characteristics of the piezoelectric wafers attached on both sides of the thin metal structure. Crack formation creates Lamb wave mode conversion due to a sudden change in the thickness of the structure. Then, the proposed technique instantly detects the appearance of the crack by extracting this mode conversion from the measured Lamb waves, and the threshold value from damage classification is also obtained only from the current dataset. Numerical and experimental results are presented to demonstrate the applicability of the proposed technique to instantaneous crack detection.